Last year in the German city of Ulm, Daimler started up an experimental car-sharing system called car2go. It incorporated a fleet of 50 smart fortwos, that users could pick up in various locations, drive as long as they wanted, and then leave within the city. Ulm’s program is now up to 20,000 members and 200 cars, while a younger sister project in Austin, Texas, is up to 10,000 members. Given that success, Daimler has just announced a new “car2go edition” of the fortwo, designed specifically for use in the program. We got a look, at the 2010 Paris Motor Show.

The car2go system allows cars to be spontaneously rented on-the-spot, or booked up to 24 hours in advance via a mobile phone or the Internet. No human contact or paperwork was necessary – available cars could be located through the web or by telephone, an electronic chip added to members’ licenses would unlock the car, the driver would then enter their PIN, drive way, and receive a monthly bill for each minute of use.

The new car2go edition fortwos are based on the smart fortwo mhd, and marks a switch from diesel to petrol for the program. Another thing that distinguishes the car2go edition is its large touchscreen control unit, which is part of the new telematics hardware that is optimized for the program.

As the press release states:

The telematics unit is networked directly with the vehicle electronics, which means it can also control the immobilizer: when the customer starts the rental process with his or her access authorization and enters a PIN number, the immobilizer is deactivated and later, once the rental is over, it is immediately activated again. The user interface has also been completely redesigned: both the menu and the integrated radio and navigation system have been clearly upgraded, are even more convenient to use, and are in keeping with the car2go design.

Another interesting feature is the 100 Watt solar panel on the roof, which is fully integrated into the onboard electronics. It will supply power to the telematics, charge the battery, and run the ventilation system when the car is parked in the sun. It will also allow the alternator to be decoupled while driving, which should reportedly reduce fuel consumption by up to 10 percent. Fuel will also be saved via an automatic start-stop system, which turns off the engine when the car isn’t moving.

Other car2go-specific features include tougher seats and rims, a more secure storage space for the key, and built-in slots to hold access cards.

Daimler is currently looking at starting up more car2go programs in various European and North American cities, with roll-out set to take place from the first quarter of 2011 onwards.

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