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Car sharing service Zipcar is solving its single biggest problem

Car sharing service Zipcar is solving its single biggest problem


You don't have to return cars to the same place you got them

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As a carless city dweller, Zipcar has been a godsend for me personally: the car sharing service, which was bought by Avis in 2013, has cars parked in specially designated spots around town that you can reserve by the hour with an app. It might not make much sense if you live in the country — but if you're in an urban center and you don't own a car, you still find that you need wheels every once in a while.

But historically, Zipcar has been hamstrung by a couple annoying rules: one, you always have to return your car to the exact same spot you picked it up; two, it can be hard to extend the length of your reservation if you have to, because others have booked your car right after you.

Zipcar is facing stiffer competition from Car2Go and automakers

Finally, Zipcar is ironing that all out. In an announcement today, the company says that "designated vehicles" will be available for one-way trips, reservations can be extended indefinitely, and final destinations can be changed in the middle of a trip. The company has already been piloting the new features — which it calls ONE>WAY — in Boston in collaboration with Honda, and the national rollout will use Honda Fits exclusively at launch. (Keeping all of the cars the same gives Zipcar the flexibility to let you take cars to other destinations and change your reservations without affecting others who are booked after you, presumably, since the cars are effectively interchangeable.)

The change brings Zipcar up to par with competitors like Daimler's Car2Go, which uses Smart cars that can be parked anywhere within a given area. Other automakers are encroaching on the territory, too — GM recently announced the launch of Maven, and Ford is testing its GoDrive service in a number of markets around the world.

Zipcar's new features will start rolling out first in Los Angeles "in the coming weeks," with other "select" markets in North America coming later in the year.