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GM relaunches Uber rival as car-sharing service

GENERAL Motors will introduce a new car-sharing service it calls Maven, which combines and expands the company’s multiple programmes under a single brand.

General Motors believes that the field of personal transportation will see significant changes in the coming decades.

Ride-sharing — that is, using a personal car as a de facto taxi by driving for Uber, Lyft, or similar outfit — is a burgeoning trend that threatens to upend the world’s cab companies.

Earlier this month, GM announced a US$500 million (2.1 billion) partnership with Lyft that will, in part, provide Lyft with a fleet of autonomous cars.

Now, GM has purchased the assets and hired about 20 former employees of Sidecar, a ride-sharing company that recently shuttered. Sidecar began as a direct competitor to Uber, but the struggling company shifted to a delivery/courier service last year but closed its doors in December.

Car-sharing — that is, allowing other drivers to use your vehicle when you’re not behind the wheel — is still in its infancy, but GM has a background in it — in 2011, the company partnered with RelayRides by letting its OnStar telematics system unlock and keep tabs on vehicles in the RelayRides network.

GM said in a statement: “Maven customers will experience seamless smartphone and keyless integration with the vehicle.

“Maven customers use its app to search for and reserve a vehicle by location or car type and unlock the vehicle with their smartphone. The app also enables remote functions such as starting, heating or cooling and more.

“Customers can bring their digital lives into the vehicle through Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, OnStar, SiriusXM radio and 4GLTE wireless. Each vehicle will provide an ownership-like experience with the convenience of car-sharing.”

Maven isn’t focused on the kind of peer-to-peer car-sharing that would allow car owners to rent out their vehicles during downtime.

Instead, GM is working to build its own fleet of cars that are rentable on the fly, making Maven more like Zipcar than RelayRides.

Maven will roll out in phases, beginning this week in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where it will focus on students, faculty, and staff at the University of Michigan.

Vehicles can be found at 21 parking spots across the city. Expansions in the immediate future will make Maven available to motorists in Chicago and New York City.

The service is currently free to join. Rental rates start at US$6 per hour or US$42 per day. GM will provide each car with a gas card, and as long as users return vehicles with at least a quarter-tank of fuel, there’ll be no charge for gas.

“GM is at the forefront of redefining the future of personal mobility. With the launch of our car-sharing service through Maven, the strategic alliance with ride-sharing company Lyft, and building on our decades of leadership in vehicle connectivity through OnStar, we are uniquely positioned to provide the high level of personalized mobility services our customers expect today and in the future,” GM president Dan Ammann said in a statement.

Image: Maven

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