Sunday, October 2, 2011

Autolib Beta Phase


After years of discussion and planning, and less than one year since the contract was awarded, Autolib went live today, October 2. It will have about 38 cars are the road, being driven by an invited set of users, and then go live to the public on December 1 with 250 cars. Over the next year, it is supposed to build out to 3000 cars.

Autolib: 3000 electric cars, paid for in 1/2 hour increments, on demand, for use in greater Paris. Comes with parking! I think of them as taxis you drive yourself, with taxi-like prices: 5-7 euros the first half hour (after you've paid a gating fee) and even more the second and third half hours.

My first kneejerk reaction is the shock at the branding. I was thinking that at those prices, it was going to be heavily used by businessmen and well-to-do women to get around Paris. Now that I see them, I think they've lost this primary market.


Here is a picture of the station, which comes at a cost to each city town of 50,000€. For Paris, this will add up to 25 million euros.



The point of the station? It is a video camera connection with customer service who will help you scan your license and then see your face, and thus decide to sell you a membership to AutoLib.

Here is what I find really shocking: this enormous cost is all because the French do not have electronic driving records that can be checked in real time. This is a pain that I've been feeling with Buzzcar. We get around it by also asking for a photo of the individual's identity card as well as a proof of residence at an address (a bill less than 3 months old). I've advised the French government that they really need to bring their driving records into the computer age. It hadn't occurred to me the size of this cost, in Paris alone, until I did the math on the Autolib stations.

So I don't sound crotchedy. Here is a picture of me being given a test drive in an Autolib by a smart, bright, well informed young man who is an "Autolib Ambassador."



Oh, to give you the link to Autolib:

not .COM (library management software, whatever that is)
not .FR (taken by a carsharing service in Lyon)
not .ORG (Lyon group has that as well)

but autolib.EU

hunh.

8 comments:

Tanya Seaman said...

Robin: What needs do you think it addresses that traditional/peer-to-peer car sharing and bike sharing are not addressing? Does it have a unique market or type of trip? Is it simply satisfying the often-asked question about one-way trips?

Tanya Seaman said...

Robin: What needs do you think it addresses that traditional/peer-to-peer car sharing and bike sharing are not addressing? Does it have a unique market or type of trip? Is it simply satisfying the often-asked question about one-way trips?

Robin Chase said...

It offers the ability to go one-way and to have parking at the other end. This is every city driver's dream.

It doesn't satisfy any of my other car needs (round-trip; more hours, outside the city). And nor is it trying to.

Kai Carver said...

I don't get Autolib. Is there any chance of this scaling to make any significant contribution to Paris's transportation needs?

VĂ©lib has been a kind of success, despite vandalism and availability issues. Can't Paris build on that? They need to provide bikes with electric propulsion, a bigger basket, and maybe solve the rain problem. If you do that you have an answer to a lot of people's transportation needs at a fraction of the cost in money and space and environmental damage of Autolib.

Oh yeah, they should also ban or tax the heck out of combustion engine motorbikes, like in Shanghai, so people start taking soft electric transportation seriously.

(I'm guessing you were invited to try Autolib so you have to be nice when commenting on it :-))

Tanya said...

Ok, thanks.

Saurabh said...

Hi Robin,

I have a great idea for going mass market with this concept of car sharing / self driven taxis.

If credentials are important, I completed my MBA from IIM Calcutta (India's Ivy League with a selectivity ratio of less than 0.30% and am currentl a marketing manager with IBM. However, I am posting here in my personal capacity.

You may contact me on gupta.g.saurabh@gmail.com

lyriclondon said...

Is this the transportation that they use in Paris. I was thinking I needed a paris visite pass to get around.

Robin Chase said...

This is one way to get around Paris. Mostly, you'd be walking, taking the metro, or choosing www.velib.com (bike sharing). You'd use Autolib if you needed to get someplace by car within the city limits and didn't want to use those other options. i.e. Autolib is like grabbing a cab that you drive yourself (and you need to become a member to do that).