Walk-Up Drive-Through

Can smart-phones do everything?

A new company is trying to find out. The enterprise is called Silvercar, and it’s using mobile technology to change the airport car-rental business. The firm’s entire fleet consists of silver Audi A4s, a nice, mid-sized sedan. The innovation is that the entire process—from reservation to pick-up to unlocking the car to dropping it off—can be managed from an iPhone or Android app. Wireless and paperless, the service is just starting up but currently seems competitively priced.

Rental companies have been catering to business travelers for years, simplifying the process in order to speed it up. But I’ve always run that race from the airport gate to the rental desk with a sense of dread—wondering what car will be available, hoping a 747 didn’t just dump a load of non-English speaking tourists into the check-in line right in front of me. And the priority plans are pretty pricey.

But mobile plus travel is changing the equation. By taking advantage of customers’ technology, this service is cutting costs and improving the experience. Zipcar is doing much the same thing in urban locations. It still can’t do the dishes, but your smart-phone is getting smarter.

Douglas R. Tengdin, CFA

Chief Investment Officer

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