SnappCar Aims to be Airbnb of Car Rentals

The sharing economy has completely rewired the way people think about various aspects of our lives. Take Airbnb and its effects on travel, for instance.

Ten years ago, the idea of staying in a stranger’s apartment on a trip to Los Angeles, Paris or Shanghai would seem even more foreign than the locale. Hotels were the only game in town. Today, many travelers don’t even bother to look at hotel rates before checking out Airbnb listings. Not only are they likely to find better rates, they can also find spaces that are more tailored to their preferences.

On the other side of the transaction, homeowners have become comfortable allowing strangers into their places, and the money from Airbnb rentals has become an important secondary source of income, or even a primary one.

Despite its prominence, Airbnb is just one example of the sharing economy. The business model has been adapted for owners of just about everything, even cars. SnappCar is a Dutch company that takes ride-sharing to another level, by allowing car owners to rent their cars to SnappCar users.

One can imagine the anxiety that goes along with handing over the keys to your car to a stranger. At least an Airbnb apartment stays in one place. To assuage car owners’ concerns, SnappCar has announced a partnership with telecom company Telia to offer SnappCar owners a telematics service called Telia Sense, giving them the ability to track their car’s activity, including its location, when it is being used through the service.

“Telia Sense is a perfect fit for us because our customers can keep an eye on their car when it’s rented out,” SnappCar Sweden head Fredrik Karlberg wrote in a statement. “They can see where it is and how it’s being driven, if something unexpected happens or if there is anything wrong. It will be a more secure and better experience for both the owner and the renter.”

The main appeal of Telia Sense is its location services.

If a renter says he’s going across town to do some errands, and three hours later you see him two states away, you’ll immediately have good reason to call the authorities. Better yet, would-be thieves are far less likely to steal a SnappCar knowing that they can be tracked.

But as Karlberg notes, Telia Sense goes beyond location services.

Car owners will also be able to access data such as how fast their cars were driven. With Airbnb, homeowners can use things like a Nest cam to monitor their place while they’re away. Telia Sense provides SnappCar owners with a similar same ability to see monitor their cars and make sure they are handled respectfully. The owners also have the ability to leave feedback on renters so future owners can know whether or not the renters can be trusted.

Of course, there are legitimate reasons to want privacy for a drive in a rented car, including privacy for its own sake. But for a service like SnappCar, where a serious level of trust is required between strangers, location services are a necessary and appropriate precaution.

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