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Zipcar gets ready for AV rentals

Tracey Zhen. Photo: Suzanne Kreiter/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Zipcar, the world's largest car-sharing network, is preparing for the day that consumers don't have to walk to find their shared rental car, but instead it comes to find them.

The big picture: Zipcar is the original auto-industry disruptor, giving customers on-demand access to vehicles as a viable alternative to car ownership. But the 19-year-old company faces competition from new mobility services including peer-to-peer car-sharing networks like Turo — and even driverless taxis some day.

But it has 3 advantages the newcomers lack, Zipcar president Tracey Zhen tells me:

  1. Years of experience with fleet management. Zipcar knows how to match supply and demand, and can quickly reposition cars where they're needed.
  2. Strong customer loyalty through its subscription-based model. Rivals need to find, acquire and keep new customers.
  3. Trusted partnerships with city leaders. Transportation is a local issue, so collaboration is important.

Why it matters: All that experience will be important in an AV world, she says. The vehicle use cases won't change, even if there's no one behind the wheel.