Our experience with the BMW ReachNow Car Sharing Service

Interesting | January 12th, 2017 by 4
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Being mobile and getting to where you need to go quickly in today’s fast-paced bustling cities is a must. Owning a car is not an …

Being mobile and getting to where you need to go quickly in today’s fast-paced bustling cities is a must. Owning a car is not an option for everyone; be it cost-of-ownership, congestion frustration or space. Public transportation is a great option, but this is also very much dependent on the infrastructure that is currently in place where you live, and, depending on your needs, may not be realistic.

BMW’s ReachNow program is aiming to solve some of these transportation needs, and with December 2016 being one of their busiest months ever, I stopped by their Seattle location to talk to a few of their representatives and to learn more about the mobility services that are already in place, in pilot format, or soon to arrive.

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Walking into the ReachNow Seattle headquarters building I’m greeted by Dana Goldin. Dana is in Marketing at ReachNow and has been with BMW in one shape or form since 2006. She kindly gives me a walkthrough of the office and explains that almost everything I see has been sourced, built with, or constructed in a manner that is sustainable and environmentally conscious. And it shows.

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In certain places, natural cork wall coverings supplement the exposed brick walls. Efficient motion-sensing, daylight-sensing LED lighting illuminates the open-concept space. The furniture is sourced from companies that pursue sustainable construction processes and focus on durability, recyclability, and healthy materials. Even the floor is comprised of recycled content tile. And the hardwood sections? They’re certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. But the pièce de résistance is definitely the vertical live wall garden growing right in the middle of the office entry-way.

By The Numbers

Dana tells me that ReachNow Seattle is one of three separate locations in North America, but that the Seattle branch is in fact the very first that opened its doors in April of 2016 and has 700 vehicles assigned to it. The second location was launched in September in Portland, Oregon with 360 vehicles followed by Brooklyn, New York in November of the same year with 250 cars.

As of this writing, between the three locations, ReachNow has a total of 38,000 members and in its inaugural year alone, these 38,000 members managed to drive over 1.6 million miles. Average rental length is about 20 minutes and assistance is available 24/7 for the renters via the customer support feature. Customer satisfaction is very important to ReachNow. You can provide feedback via their social channel, customer support or through user surveys.

How It Works

Basically, ReachNow has cars all throughout the city. As a member, you’re covered under ReachNow’s insurance and you are able to rent the cars at your leisure and you pay for the time you use. Presently, you can only rent/return a car from within all of Seattle (or Portland or Brooklyn if you live in these cities) also known as the “Home Area.” You can travel outside of Seattle, and say, visit the Bellevue Square Mall, park the car and go about your shopping. While parked, you’d be charged a lower rate by the minute, but you can’t end your rental and leave the car in Bellevue. You must return the car to Seattle to officially end your trip, otherwise you pay a penalty fee.

Once you’re back in Seattle, parking is always free in public spaces for your ReachNow rental. With that said, should you cross any toll bridges, incur a traffic fine, or park illegally (no parking zones, bus stops, etc.) your account will be charged fees. Here’s a quick video that will take you through the basics of finding, reserving, driving and ending a reservation:

Something that I’m very excited about is the fact that ReachNow has a hub near Sea-Tac Airport. Imagine reserving yourself a BMW from within Seattle, driving it to the ReachNow hub located in the WallyPark Premiere Airport Parking garage, parking the car in the dedicated ReachNow parking spots, and then taking a shuttle that drops you at your terminal which is 5 minutes away. Even if you own a car, going the ReachNow route is likely cheaper than parking your own car at the airport and leaving it there until your return. And when you get back, you can do the whole thing in reverse. Land, reserve your car, take the shuttle to WallyPark, hop in your BMW and drive into Seattle. The best part is, you’re in complete control.

Sign-up Process

The sign-up process took me 5 minutes and was all handled in-App. It consisted of me registering with my email address, selecting a password, selecting a 4-digit PIN (this PIN will be used to essentially start the car once you enter it) and inputting my legal first and last name as it appears on my driver’s license. Then, I entered my credit card info, scanned the front and back of my driver’s license and finished by having the App scan my face. Lastly, you agree to the terms and conditions and tell ReachNow to send you a personalized welcome packet which arrives via mail and includes your very own member card. General fine print is that applicants must be at least 18 years old, have a valid credit/debit card, and a clean driving record with at least 2 years of driving history.

Using ReachNow App

Once you’re signed-up, you launch the App, it shows you your location as well as all the cars in the ReachNow fleet that are nearby you. You can also filter in greater detail and only search for BMW’s, or only BMW i models, or MINIs. Once you find a car that you’re interested in, you can click on it and a pop-up appears telling you the amount of fuel/electric charge the car has, the estimated distance you can travel, as well as the associated drive and stationary rates. There’s also a “Reserve” button, which once pressed, books the car to your account. You then have 30 minutes to reach the car and activate your rental by entering the car, inputting your PIN and driving off.

Solutions That Make Sense

As mentioned at the start, living in a large metropolis has its drawbacks as far as personal transportation goes. If you have a healthy public transportation system in your city that efficiently gets you to-and-from work, many would argue that there’s no real reason for you to actually own a car. Also, a lot of people don’t see the point of owning a car if you’re always going to be stuck in traffic and constantly hunting for a parking spot. Paying a monthly loan or lease on a vehicle that you only truly enjoy on weekends is, financially-speaking, a bad idea. So for these reasons as well as for the instances where you can’t take the bus/tram/subway to the airport, or the vet at 2:00am, or that wedding reception you were invited to at that nice golf club location, ReachNow could be your personal mobility solution.

Also, let us not forget that BMW, the BMW i Electric Vehicle sub-brand and MINI to a certain extent, are in fact, luxury/aspirational brands. Becoming a ReachNow member essentially gives you access to a network of high-end vehicles that you can rent at your own discretion for 41 cents a minute. I joke that if ReachNow was in place back when I turned 18, you better believe I would have signed up immediately and would have squealed with joy at the idea of getting behind the wheel of my first BMW. Additionally, if you’re in the market for a BMW, or an Electric i Vehicle, or a MINI but don’t enjoy going on dealership test drives because of the pressure, each car in the ReachNow fleet could be viewed, as Dana puts it, a sort of “test drive on demand” where you’re in complete control. You can listen to your music, turn left wherever you want, and if you felt like it, stop by your nearby snack store for a treat.

It’s all up to you.

Membership – Rates – Cost Caps

Below is a cost breakdown of ReachNow’s Program:

And in case you were wondering what would happen if you were to smoke in the car, damage the car, leave the car in a different city, etc. here’s the full breakdown: http://reachnow.com/seattle-wa/

ReachNow Future

All of this is great news and has me excited. But then I learn that the Car Sharing aspect only scratches the surface of what ReachNow has been quietly building:

ReachNow: Ride Program

When ReachNow launched their pilot program for RIDE on December 8th they became the very first company to offer both a car sharing and ride sharing option in one App. RIDE, in a nutshell, is ReachNow’s premium Uber experience. So in instances where you’d want to be chauffeured to a location, you’d use this service to hail a ReachNow driver via the App, input your destination and within 10 minutes your driver would arrive to take you to your destination. Simple!

ReachNow: Fleet Solutions – Residential & Corporate

This mobility solution in its residential form is up and running. Launched in December of 2016 as a pilot in lower Manhattan’s Battery Park City neighborhood, residents of the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified Solaire and Verdesian luxury high-rise apartments have access to four BMW i3 electric plug-in hybrids as well as two 3 Series sedans. These vehicles can be reserved by the residents via the ReachNow App 24/7.

The Corporate version of this mobility solution (which will launch sometime this year) would operate very much the same way as the Residential variant. Imagine a Microsoft/Google/Apple campus that would have a dedicated parking section with multiple car models available. Should you have some errands to run, or need to make a meeting at an off-site location, instead of ordering a shuttle or taking your own car/bicycle/etc. you reserve a ReachNow vehicle, attend your meeting across town, then return your rental back to main campus when finished.

ReachNow: Share – Peer-to-Peer Car Sharing

Ever wish your car could make you money when you’re not using it? A lot of people do. Imagine you own a MINI and you’re flying out for your vacation, leaving your MINI behind. Now imagine launching the ReachNow App, selecting your car, setting the start/end dates (basically the two weeks you’re on vacation) and then clicking the “share” button. ReachNow picks up your MINI, adds it to their fleet of cars, and you basically get paid by ReachNow for renting out your car while you’re not using it. Your MINI is protected and covered by ReachNow and they make sure your car arrives back in the same shape it was when you left it.

Working with Seattle MINI, ReachNow aims to do just that with its revolutionary Peer-to-Peer Car Sharing Program – Share. Launched in December of 2016, it’s currently in its pilot phase and only 2016/17 MINI models are eligible. Although we would all like to off-set the cost of ownership on our vehicles, ReachNow knows this program isn’t for everyone. Not everyone can bear the thought of someone else driving their car, regardless of the additional income, but for those that are ok with the idea this is a pretty fantastic program. Much the same way homeowners leverage the power of Airbnb to offset the cost of owning property, your car could do the same for you.

In the future I could imagine seeing this as an actual build list option. While you’re selecting the paint, trim and finish of your MINI, once you get to the options list you may see a box entitled “Share Package” which would equip your new MINI with all the telemetry tech necessary to basically allow you to easily opt-into the Car Sharing Program whenever you’d like to.

ReachNow: Reserve – Valet Service

The Reserve program aims to be your longer-term premium mobility solution that ReachNow will launch in pilot format later this year. This program will allow you to tell ReachNow when you’d want to use a car, they prep it for you, clean it, fuel it, and drop it off at your location. You’d drive it for the duration of your reservation, and when you’re done, ReachNow would come and pick up the car from you.

Final Thoughts

After learning of all the exciting programs either presently in use, in pilot form, or still cooking in the ReachNow ovens, I’m thoroughly blown away at the mobility options at our disposal. I’ve truly been taken on a veritable “tour of mobility” and I find myself smiling, thinking that it truly is an exciting time we live in.

Dana ends our meeting by saying that “none of these programs are meant to be a one-size-fits-all solution” but that the vision is to have a single App that empowers you and provides you with a consistent, premium experience. An experience that allows you to create your own “transportation tapestry” that’s dependent on whatever works best for you, a person with unique and individual needs.

I’m imagining an App that allows me to rent a car right off the street if I need it. Totally possible today. The same App can allow me to summon a ride that will drive me to my destination. The same App will allow me to summon a car that’s fresh, clean and fueled up for an extended weekend trip. Should you have a MINI that you won’t be driving because you’re on vacation, it can be rented out to other drivers which will yield you income. Should your apartment or workplace be enrolled in the Fleet program, you can check out a car for your mobility needs. I can’t help but think how far we’ve come as a species. Always on the go. I feel like technology has finally caught up with our crazy ideas, and smart people are coming up with solutions to transportation needs that we didn’t even know we had.

As far as I’m concerned, my entire concept of personal mobility has been shattered by Dana and the ReachNow team. It’s not for everyone, sure, but there’s no denying that there’s a little something that anyone could benefit from.

Big thanks to Dana and the Seattle ReachNow Team for according us their valuable time and for the i3 loaner used during the construction of this article. For additional information, please visit the official ReachNow website http://reachnow.com/

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