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BMW unveils ReachNow car share on Capitol Hill — UPDATE

IMG_5276 IMG_5286Car sharing in Seattle is getting an upgrade. BMW Group officials were on Capitol Hill Friday morning to unveil their re-booted and re-branded free floating car share service which will add all-electric BMW i3s and non-electric 3 Series and Mini cars to the city’s mix of park-anywhere vehicles.

ReachNow is the first competitor to Car2Go’s Smart Car fleet since Daimler AG rolled out the service in 2012. The official ReachNow launch includes a nod to BMW’s pre-app days — an event at the Pike Motorworks building, a former BMW dealership.

BMW officials were planned to be joined by Mayor Ed Murray to announce the company’s re-start of U.S. operations, which includes opening a new headquarters in Seattle. Officials say they plan to expand service to several other cities this year, but chose Seattle for its headquarters because of its environmentally conscious consumers and electric vehicle-friendly infrastructure. CHS will be updating here with more details from the event.


BMW exec Peter Schwarzenbauer unveils ReachNow inside Pike Motorworks. (Image: CHS)

UPDATE: “Have a BMW for the weekend,” is how BMW executive Peter Schwarzenbauer pitched Seattle’s new car share service Friday morning. i3s, 3 Series, and Minis were parked inside and trotted about outside the Pike Motorworks building on E Pike to show off the ReachNow fleet, which is now available for rides.

During the event Schwarzenbauer highlighted some of the “premium” services that will go above the traditional care share model. Among the most innovative is allowing BMW and Mini owners to earn money by putting their own vehicles on the ReachNow network. Just how much car sharers will be compensated is still getting worked out.

Details were also scant on some of the other promised features, like how service to SeaTac Airport will work and when ReachNow’s service map will expand to more Seattle neighborhoods. Users can drive outside the “home area” but cannot end trips there. Schwarzenbauer said when all its services roll out this year, ReachNow would clearly stand apart from Car2Go.

“We have only premium cars in our fleet,” he said. “We would see ourselves as the only one in the market that tries to cover every need you would have.”

ReachNow is working to ramp up fill its 370 vehicle permits. Signing up will require users to scan their driver’s license and then verify their identity by taking a picture of their face through the ReachNow app.

At 370 vehicles, ReachNow will bring a 50% increase to the number of current free-floating cars in Seattle. BMW could have up to 500 vehicles concentrated anywhere in Seattle or 750 that must be accessible citywide, which would need to happen after two years in any event.

Deputy Mayor Kate Joncas read a mayoral proclamation Friday declaring April 8th Car Share Day in Seattle.

ReachNow will essentially operate like to Car2Go. Users will need a driver license and credit card to sign up and use the ReachNow app to locate and reserve cars. Drivers can park in any legal street parking space, including metered spaces and residential zones.

Car share users will find comparable prices between Seattle’s two services. ReachNow will cost $0.49 per minute while driving and $0.30 per minute while parked and requires a $39 one-time signup fee (currently waived if you register through the app, as noted in comments). Car2Go costs a flat $0.41 per minute and requires a $35 signup fee.

The first ReachNow ride can be started within minutes of downloading the app, but all future rides will require a key card sent by mail. ReachNow’s “home area” — where you can start and end trips — will initially be limited to an area bounded by N 105th St. and S Lander, and west to 15th Ave W.  West Seattle and Magnolia are off limits for now, but ReachNow says it plans to expand in the coming months.Screen Shot 2016-04-08 at 12.26.46 PM

In addition to taking on Car2Go, ReachNow will also try to compete with Uber and Lyft with “chauffeur” service expected to roll out this year. Tapping into fears over dangerous Uber drivers, Schwarzenbauer said ReachNow would “secure safety issues” by using drivers specially licensed by BMW.

A few additional services in the pipeline will make ReachNow stand apart from Car2Go, including:

  • Delivery service for car sharing vehicles
  • Vehicles on-hand at the airport
  • Car sharing for longer rentals
  • Car sharing for residential and corporate groups

The Capitol Hill launch is also an opportunity for BMW to reveal its new car share brand in the U.S. Launched in Munich in 2011, BMW’s DriveNow currently operates in several European cities and opened U.S. operations in San Francisco in 2013. The company then closed up shop last year citing insurmountable problems with the San Francisco’s parking regulations.

Seattle appears to have ironed out any major parking issues after three years of Car2Go. According to the Seattle Department of Transportation, car sharing accounted for less than 5% of available parking spaces in business districts and those vehicles often sat idle for less than an hour.

Thousands of Seattle drivers have already turned in a private vehicle for car sharing memberships and SDOT expects that trend to continue.

BMW’s launch comes a year after the Seattle City Council voted to allow three more free-floating car share vendors to join Car2Go. Car2Go currently has 750 vehicles permitted for its service — the maximum allowed by the City for an individual provider. With four vendors, that means Seattle could have up to 3,000 free-floating cars on the road.

Screen Shot 2016-06-20 at 8.41.21 PMUPDATE 6/20/2016: It’s not a floating option, but Zipcar is adding 100 cars to the streets of Seattle under its new one-way system:

Zipcar, the world’s leading car sharing network, will officially launch Zipcar’s new flexible features in Seattle, combining the best of Zipcar’s round-trip service with the spontaneity and freedom of new, flexible features that allow members to choose their destination (one-way or round trip with parking), change their destination mid-trip, and extend their reservation indefinitely.

Here’s how the new one-way pricing is described:

Rates start at $5 per half hour, but vary by city and day of the week. This rate includes gas, insurance, and reserved parking on both ends. Regular membership plan discounts apply.


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32 thoughts on “BMW unveils ReachNow car share on Capitol Hill — UPDATE

  1. Registered. Here’s hoping there are cars on the Hill during the day. The only unanswered question I have is how they bill tolls. Is there a surcharge? Is there a good to go pass or does every trip pay the mail rate?

  2. I’m interested to know if reachnow is operating under slightly different parking rules than car2go. Here are the current parking rules from C2G’s website that are more restrictive than reachnow’s (mainly the “less than one hour” and the “convert to traffic lanes” references):
    “In Seattle, you may park in any non-restricted curb side parking throughout the car2go Home Area as well as any Restricted Parking Zone location. You can park at all parking meter locations without having to feed the meter but may not end your trip in spaces limited to less than 1 hours. You are allowed to park and end trips in 1 hour or greater restricted parking zones. Commercial, valet, and taxi zones are strictly prohibited. Also note that spaces that convert to traffic lanes are also prohibited.”

    • My interpretation of the parking rules is that both are following the same standards, but using different wording. I may be wrong.

    • $0.41 per minute + 17.3% rental car tax = ~$0.48 per minute with tax. That’s also why the $1 per-ride fee actually costs you $1.17.

    • Sure. But Car2Go pays that tax; I don’t. I pay them $1.17 per trip plus $0.48 per minute. They doll that out to suppliers, fuel suppliers, mechanics, various governments, and whomever else they please.

    • To be very clear: I know from personal experience that Car2Go charge subscribers to their service $1.17 + $0.48/minute for each trip, give or take less than one cent per meter drop and per minute. I understand that some of that is used to pay for equipment, some for fuel, some for insurance, some for rent at their offices, some for taxes, some for labor, some for profit, etc.

  3. Weirdly, their FAQ and their membership terms conflict about animals. FAQ says:

    “Can I bring my pet along?
    Any pets must be crated. If the interior of the vehicle is dirty or full of pet hair, we reserve the right to charge up to $150 per violation. Service animals are an exception, of course.

    but membership terms say:

    No Vehicle will be used or operated (by Member or by anyone else through an act or omission of Member) as follows:
    (v) to transport any animals except for any service animal of Member;

  4. The pricing for ReachNow is already higher than Car2Go in that they charge a $1 “shared asset” fee per trip, in addition to the rental time fees. And their membership agreement includes provisions for demand-based variable pricing, like Uber…though this doesn’t seem to be active yet in the promotional period. But hey, you get to rent a BMW instead of a Smart 2-seater putt-putt! They’re definitely targeting a more complete service for a more premium market.

  5. I am not clear on the automobile insurance. 1. Is it necessary to have your own policy. 2. If it’s not necessary, is it advised for liability purposes? 3. If no liability or property damage insurance is needed, what about medical coverage?

    I am curious about two situations: one – of being injured by an uninsured driver and having large medical bills, and two – of the liability of being at fault in an accident which injures someone.

    If I can eliminate my current automobile and automobile insurance, then I can afford to use this car service for all my transportation needs.

    • From the FAQ. “ReachNow maintains the state mandated insurance minimums. For Washington we maintain $30,000 per person, $60,000 per accident and $10,000 in property damage. Members are responsible for a $500 insurance deductible if they are found at-fault in an accident. We maintain liability coverage of $5,000,000 per incident. Anything over this amount would be the responsibility of the member.”

      Your medical would be covered via your own medical policy, as it likely is with your current auto insurance.

      So do you need additional coverage? Maybe. Some companies have supplemental coverage policies.

    • How would they track how long you’ve had the car, and know what to bill you, if you claimed that was private? How would they amass user data to plan where they need more cars, if you didn’t agree they could track where you go via GPS? If you’re that paranoid, buy your own car.

    • Compare with utility companies, who measure your usage but treat that information as private. They must see it in order to determine what to bill you, but they don’t share it with others. Potential advertisers don’t get it. Data aggregators don’t get it. Police need a warrant in order to get it.

      Doctors are privvy to and treat private health information as private, and they’re still able to care for patients.

      Do you want BMW Group telling businesses you drove near them so they can send advertisements to your phone? To alert your neighbors on NextDoor that you often park near a strip club? To notify interested parties that you visited an abortion clinic? Do you want them handing off data to federal agencies who will store it away just in case it can be used against you someday? Do you want divorce attorneys purchasing the data about their clients’ spouses? Should private investigators be able to look up where you’ve driven?

      Should absolutely anyone with whom BMW Group decide–without so much as notification to you–to share this “non-private” information about your travels have access to where you’ve been and when you were there–even where you are in real-time?

    • When they say “no privacy,” they’re leaving it open for any form of intrusion they please. That’s not paranoid, it’s their policy.

  6. Looking forward to seeing these all clustered around the Amazon buildings in SLU, only to be miles away around 4:30, just like C2G. Need a car in SLU at 5PM? Sorry – the brogrammers took ’em all back to their neighborhoods.

    • And then they crow self-righteously how they don’t own a car. “I just need one to get to work and back”. You know– like most of the rest of us who own cars.

    • Enough with the brogrammer sexist and xenophobic crap. I am a 30+ year Cap Hill resident and don’t work for Amazon or tech. Anyone who uses these services likely is carless or otherwise sees it as a virtue relative to owning or using their car. How about you agree to either STFU, or disclaim technology that created your opportunity to participate in this blog – which is the product of smart people innovating at places like Amazon, Microsoft, Apple and thousands of other places.

    • Wow, someone got their underroos in a wad. I hope you’re okay now.

      Seriously though, whip out the C2G app around 7AM and note the location of the cars. Then do it around 10AM. Or you can go and visit Harrison, Terry, Republican, etc down in SLU and you’ll see on one block as many as 10-15 C2G parked one after the other. Then open the app around 5PM and look in the same area – all gone. It’s ridiculously predictable.

      It’d be funny though to amass enough people with C2G accounts to move them all during the day while they’re at work and drive them away from SLU. The mayhem that would erupt as they left work and didn’t know what to do next.

      I digress – I really hope you’re okay, Data Driven.

  7. And your point is? Have Amazon employees or any other group engaged in some perceived malfeasance or hypocricy by using such options? I am delighted to see fewer underunused cars in town in favor of buses, car share, Uber, bicycles and the like. The city is permitting apartments to be built without parking. Only if folks don’t own cars that they crowd onto the streets will this be non-disruptive to others. My own street in North Capitol Hill is one block from an RPZ. Every time I see someone getting around via something other than a private car, I quietly thank them. Now if Uber and Taxi drivers would learn how to drive, rather than cruising down arterials at 15mph and picking and dropping off fares without pulling over, I’d really be pleased.

  8. signed up for reachnow on smartphone and they are charging me $.50
    not bad but would have been nice to tell me since the ap said it was free
    is their business model to charge customer and not tell for what

    • It’s pretty common for things like this to do a small test charge when you sign up and revoke it from their end before it finalizes. This lets them check that your credit card information is legit before you run up a bill. You should see that charge disappear from your statement within a few days. I saw the same charge, but it’s gone now for me.