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Getaround car-sharing service comes to Chicago

September 21, 2012|By Adam Lukach, @lucheezy | RedEye

Chicagoans in need of a car, or in need of something to do with their car, have another option with the launch of car-sharing service Getaround in the city Thursday.

Getaround enables car owners to rent out their dormant vehicles on an hourly or daily basis to people who need them. The rates and times are determined by the owner and range from $3 to $15 per hour, of which the average income is about $350 per month, said company founder and marketing director Jessica Scorpio. The company takes a 40 percent commission, which is used to pay for comprehensive roadside assistance and insurance.

Since it launched in May 2011, Getaround has expanded to Portland, Ore.; Austin, Texas; and San Diego, Calif. The Chicago expansion is its first east of the Mississippi River and come fresh off the company's announcement of $13.9 million of Series A funding, which is venture capital funding from high-profile backers such as Yahoo Chief Executive Marissa Mayer and Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt's Innovation Endeavors.

Scorpio said insurance coverage was the biggest barrier for the company getting started, and after a year of talks, the company was able to guarantee up to $1,000,000 worth of primary insurance.

"One of the things we did was to help pass AB 1871 in California, which is a peer-to-peer car-sharing insurance legislation," Scorpio said. "If someone is sharing a personal vehicle, their personal insurance will not be impacted. We as a car-sharing organization have to provide insurance."

Scorpio said the technology behind the process was the other impediment to the service. Users have two options, a manual key exchange that requires lender and borrower to meet up, or an in-house created app that works with the Getaround Car Kit. The kit, which cars have installed in their car, allows them to link up with borrowers via the app, who are then able to independently unlock the car with the keys inside, eliminating any work otherwise required by the owner.

"From the owners side, they are always in control if they use the app or not," Scorpio said. "They control how much they want to share and with whom."

The company has integrated with the DMV to check for safe driving records and credit information, while also featuring a review system that applies to renters and owners. There are also requirements for the cars: it must be newer than 1995 and carry no less than 150,000 miles.

The company has also launched Getaway, a service only available in San Francisco and Chicago, which is a full time car-sharing service that requires a minimum lending of six months. For these cars, the company conducts a safety inspection and details the car while parking it in a central location.

Scorpio said they've managed to garner the support of Department of Transportation commissioner Gabe Klein and Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who said in a statement, "Getaround is an exciting company to bring into our business community."

"Really what we're trying to do is change the way people use cars," Scorpio said. "Each share takes 13 cars off the road. We hope to share millions of cars, take it around the world, and stop another billion cars from coming into this world."

Getaround will compete locally with companies such as Relay Rides, which was founded by a Northwestern University graduate and headquartered in San Francisco. Relay Rides launched in Chicago this year and also takes a 40 percent commission, with car owners setting their own rental rates. Car-sharing companies Zipcar and I-Go have operated in Chicago for years, offering short-term rentals of cars parked in lots and stations across the city.

Chicago Tribune contributed.

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