July 18, 2012 at 5:26 PM ET
OnStar subscribers have long been able to use the company's technology to remotely locate, lock or unlock and start or stop their vehicles. As of Tuesday, they can also use it to turn a profit.
That's now possible thanks to an exclusive new technology-sharing partnership between GM OnStar and RelayRides, a peer-to-peer car-sharing service that lets people rent out their autos for any time period from an hour to a week to other individuals who find them online or through a smartphone app.
RelayRides now enables renter-members to find, unlock and lock any OnStar-equipped vehicle they've paid to rent, either by directly accessing the vehicle from within the service's app or by replying to a text message. And owners of OnStar-equipped vehicles can now safely hide their car keys inside their vehicles and go on with their other activities, rather than having to hand over car keys to renters in person— as owners of non-OnStar-equipped vehicles still must do.
Owner-members could earn a great deal of money from renting their vehicles through the service, and the risks are low because RelayRides provides liability, collision and comprehensive insurance for the rental period. Owners are covered by a $1 million policy, renters receive a $300,000 policy and users' ordinary car insurance is not involved.
A recent search of the RelayRides marketplace for cars available in the Hoboken, N.J., area turned up a wide variety of vehicles, which ranged in price from $6 to $50 per hour, or from $45 to nearly $1,000 per day. (These included "Ravi's Honda," a 2007 Civic that rents for $6 an hour or $45 a day and "Logan's BMW," a 2008 3 Series convertible that rents for $50 an hour or $250 a day.)
RelayRides cars are available in locations across the U.S., but in some of those areas it is not the only peer-to-peer car-sharing service. Competitive operations include Getaround (in San Francisco, San Diego, Austin, Texas and Portland, Ore.) and Wheelz (which serves the communities around four California universities: Stanford, UC-Berkeley, UCLA and USC). Getaround, in particular, offers a technology option similar to that enabled by the OnStar-RelayRides alliance: The Getaround Carkit installs in any vehicle and combines GPS, Wi-Fi and keyless remote technology.
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