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Future Mobility for BMW Doesn’t Always Include Cars

German automaker moves forward with car-sharing and meeting other transportation needs of city dwellers.

What does it say about the future of mobility — and, more specifically, the car-ownership experience we’re accustomed to — when an automaker whose famous tagline is “The Ultimate Driving Machine” is investing big bucks in car-sharing and even touting public transportation as a viable option?

Last year, BMW debuted a new sub-brand, BMW i, to launch its electric vehicles. But another aspect of the $100 million fund is investing in other aspects of “personal mobility” by the end of the decade.

While we’ve seen at various auto shows the all-electric i3 that’s slated for a late 2013 debut, and the i8 plug-in hybrid super car that has a planned 2014 launch, BMW i is also participating in a car-sharing program in Germany called DriveNow that’s a joint venture with Sixt, a major European car rental company.

Members of the car-sharing program have access to a variety of BMW and Mini vehicles parked around the city centers of Munich and Berlin. Members can locate available vehicles using an iPhone app or via the DriveNow website and then use a unique radio-frequency ID card and PIN to unlock and start the cars. Once they reach their destination, the cars can be left there for another renter to find.

BMW mobility services director Bernhard Blaettel recently noted that the company may bring the program to the U.S. in the future, but added that currently the company has no solid plans to do so. But that BMW i is a New York-based venture should indicate that the company has its sights set on the States — and that BMW is looking beyond the car-commuting paradigm.
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