Peer-to-peer car sharing network Wheelz hits SF

Peer-to-peer car sharing company Wheelz had taken a page from Facebook’s opening by starting its service at college campuses, including Stanford, USC, UC Berkeley and USC.

But yesterday we got news that it’s going after the metropolitan market of San Francisco, joining Getaround and RelayRides, which have already been tackling the market for a couple of years. I certainly sense that it’s getting pretty crowded out there in the peer-to-peer car sharing market. And Wheelz is out touting the fact that its technology uses a DriveBox, which is installed in members’ vehicles to allow keyless entry. The box also plugs into the vehicle’s locking system so that renters can unlock the car from their smartphone.

The big issue with keyless entry in the peer-to-peer market is that it means you don’t have to meet up with the renter of the car and really shifts all vetting of drivers to the internet and social networks like Facebook. Wheelz isn’t the only company that is working toward keyless entry in car sharing as RelayRides allows GM owners in the OnStar network to rent their cars in the network and allows the renter to open the car with a mobile app. I’ve been watching RelayRide’s agreement with GM to see if it can really help the company access a larger number of people who want to rent their cars.

Anyway you slice it, competition in the share economy is heating up, and when it comes to peer-to-peer car sharing, it’s clear that opening up the rental vehicle from a smartphone will be a must have feature for any startup to offer.

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Adam Lesser

Analyst Gigaom Research

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