BMW Gears Up to Offer Car Sharing and Parking Locator Apps

Courtesy BMW

BMW's DriveNow car-sharing service lets members take the ActiveE electric car for a spin.

As young city dwellers choose car-sharing services such as Zipcar over owning their vehicle, BMW is getting into the act with its first U.S. rental program starting in San Francisco.

At a rate of $12 for the first half hour and 32 cents for each additional minute,  BMW’s DriveNow service lets members take the automaker’s ActiveE electric car for a spin. The cost for a full day is $90, and there’s a $39 signup fee. By comparison, Zipcar customers in San Francisco can rent a BMW 328xi (not a fancy electric model) for $15.25 per hour or $109 per day.

The service, which lets users book a car using an app for Apple’s iPhone and iPad and Google’s Android devices, has been available for more than a year in Germany and has 40,000 members, said Ian Robertson, a BMW board member. Daimler, which owns Mercedes-Benz and other car brands, has a similar program called Car2Go.

“The current model of the car industry needs to change,” Robertson said at an event outside San Francisco City Hall that was attended by Mayor Ed Lee. “Mobility service will be a highly significant part of the luxury car industry.”

Alongside the car-sharing app, BMW plans to introduce a new service called ParkNow in San Francisco next month. With the app, drivers in the city can locate available spaces at parking garages and book them. The software then displays a QR code that is like a key to access the garage. About 10 garages will be listed at first, and at least 100 more are coming in the next few months, Robertson said.

While ParkNow is a BMW service, the garages won’t discriminate against your ’95 Geo. It seemed like a smart buy at the time, we know.

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