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Thursday, February 12, 2015

Zoomcar keyless-staffless rental experience!

Ever thought of a fully automated car rental- pickup a car and drop it off all by yourself without having to rely on any staff/assistant? You thought that can’t work in India? Well Zoomcar has such a facility operational in India. Once you book a car, you can walkin, unlock and zoom-out in a car without any help from a staff. This facility was on the cards since long time, but all of my previous self-drive car rental bookings were delivered by zoom car attendants, until my recent booking of Honda Amaze on Jan 20th.

This was the first time I tried Zoom’s human-less pickup and drop of self drive rental car. I reached the pickup point little earlier than planned, so had to wait for sometime before I could unlock. I wanted to pre-pone the booking start time, but I couldn't do that via App, couldn't create a new booking and couldn't reach call centre as well (I was told there was some outage that time) With no human staff around, though I could see an XUV500, a Scorpio, an Amaze, an Ecosport and a Figo around I was helpless. At about 5 AM a bunch of youngsters arrived, unlocked a Scorpio and drove away. I could unlock the car 20 min before the scheduled pickup time. I got email about the same. To unlock the car, I had to click on Unlock button in the App. The car unlocked promptly. I got in, key was not in the glove box where it was supposed to be, but I found it in the area below the central console (between gearbox and music system). I tried pickup checklist, but the Tablet was totally dry. I had to charge it for few minutes before I could turn it on. Instead of charging and leaving it ON, fleet guy should probably charge it and switch it off, to avoid battery draining. (Why can’t I do the check list on my own smartphone ZoomcarApp? Why should I use Tablet for that? I had to enter booking ID manually. Checklist was simple and fast. But I find following things missing:
·         No provision to enter Odometer reading
·         No provision to enter any specific scratch/damage found on the car. (There were images from all angles, but zoom on the image was not working, so one can’t pin point specific scratch/dent in those images)
·         Car was clean on the inside but very dusty on the outside- I guess this can’t be avoided unless you’ve a reserved parking area. Leaving the car by the roadside will ensure dust accumulation
·         One of the items- aux cable was missing. I had the option to proceed without it or wait for a zoomcar staff to arrive and help. I didn't need that thing, so I proceeded with my drive.

Rest of the day was fine, I could zoom around the city. But I was too tired to take any pictures of the car.

Then came the return part. I drove in to Zoomcar Jayanagar parking spot in front of Mainland China. Here I had to fight with Hotel security to park the car. They objected me to park on the road and advised me to park on the other side of the road, which clearly had 'No parking' sign and no extra space/lane to park. The basement of the building had Zoomcar parking sticker on it, but I wasn’t allowed to drive in either. After convincing them I parked on the roadside, same place from where I had driven off in the morning.

I completed the return checklist- It didn’t ask for Odometer reading, didn’t ask if there’re any new damages etc. App said door will lock automatically after 5 minutes. I wanted to be sure, so I waited outside the car to ensure that it gets locked. But even after 10 minutes, car didn’t get lock itself. So I called the fleet executive and told him the same. He managed to lock the car remotely. I see this as big risk- what if I (or other customers) had walked away without ensuring that car is physically locked? What if someone else does damage to the car while it was parked? (Roadside parking is prone to multiple incidents) If thieves get to know that key is in the glove box, it doesn’t take much effort for them to break the window and escape with the car. I feel it will be safer to have this option in a closed parking area, where at least one security guard is present if not fleet crew.
Representative image
Also a reminder asking customers to ensure that they’ve taken all their belongings from the car and probably an option to LOCK instantly and not after 5 mins will be nice.

Automation is good, but at times we simply prefer to talk to a human. That said, the whole concept as such is great. Good to see such innovations actually working in everyday life. Minor flaws can always be fixed.

Update: Keyless option is available only for cheaper cars, not for expensive ones like Merc & BMWs

Similar: Zoom vs Carzonrent *  Drive a Merc without robbing a bank *

14 comments :

Anonymous said...

I guess this was why the Zoom staff went on strike recently.

As for breaking the window and driving away with the car, I believe the car can be tracked via GPS and remotely shutdown as well. That was what an employee told me at least.

Here's an assignment for you: on your next booking, lock the car via the tab while you're sitting inside (with windows open) and try starting the car using the key. If it doesn't start, you can leave the keys in the car with complete peace of mind. Else it is better to carry the key with you.

On the bright side, this somewhat mitigates the inconvenience of not having remote locking/unlocking like on the Safari/Scoprio.

BTW, what's the suggested procedure if you find yourself in a place with no mobile network? Use the key to lock the car?

Shrinidhi Hande said...

I do not know much about the strike.

I saw some message that I can lock/unlock only once. Not sure if I can use this feature to lock the car multiple times. Will try to check that aspect next time.

As pickup/drop off location will be in metro, mobile signal is expected 24x7.. Of course there is a risk that some customers may not have a smart phone or phone battery might be dead.

Anonymous said...

Oh, so you mean to say the lock/unlock via tab is done only during pickup/return i.e to start/end a drive? I kinda assumed it would work in a similar fashion to remote on the keys. Let us know what you find out

Prasad Np aka desi Traveler said...

Very comprehensive review. You are quiet a car expert in every sense

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Thanks Prasad

@Anon: Sure, Will update after my next booking.. Next weekend, GLA class

mumbaiiteanu said...

Sounds like an interesting option.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

It is an experience not most of us are used to. But at times I would prefer to speak with a human than an App

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Also I am told keyless option is available on only cheaper cars, not on expensive ones like Merc and BMW

Dhananjay said...

Most of things you mentioned right,also you need to consider some of the locations like ,Residency road , Jp nagar locations are on basement there, we do not get mobile/internet signal it will be too difficult to acess, even if there staff also complaining the same. As you mentioned ODO meter reading, no entry and exit readings . In my account still they have to refund Rs.540 which is reflecting in my zoom login for excess they have charged they are only sending apology mail and making calls, after 3 months waiting for refund. It may be small but there is lack of trust on the system what they have introduced. Now i stopped taking vehicles with zoom.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

@Dhananjay

THanks for sharing your experience. Hope refund gets credited soon

Uzair Majid said...

Actually many of the points made by you have been addressed now i suppose. Like the checklist, damage reporting and other stuff, from within the app. My experience was very positive and i enjoyed the service. Locking and Unlocking for me somehow couldnt be managed throught the app so i called up the CC Exec and they did it promptly. There might be a few areas for improvement, like the in-car accessories and ODO reading option for the app, but i trust that their tracking system is capable enough to make accurate calculations (only downside is whether they are very honest about the distances or like our govt.) All in all, it was a great experience driving with ZoomCar. Will gladly make the foray again.

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Thanks Uzair for sharing your experience.

sungod said...

Recently I used zoomcar Mahindra XUV for a day.The pickup/drop point is on the sixth floor (Tec Towers,Chennai).This is inconvienient specially when people are using an unfamiliar vehicle.I brought it to notice.But there is no response

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Hmm, didn't know about 6th floor thing. You mean parking lot is in 6th floor or staff sits in 6th floor? I know Tec towers has a separate building for parking behind it. How was the process with security, if you were not an employee?