I am now a proud owner of a Zipcard. My old car died a horrible, screaming death recently and I decided to try to go carless as an experiment, hoping to save some money or to lose weight.
Zipcar is the modern way to rent a car. You reserve a car by the hour or by the day through the web, arrive at the site, swipe your card and drive away.
My biggest problem with being a Zipster is that the closest Zipcar location to my home is about one mile away. On second thought, I am losing weight.
But for other Zipsters, the biggest problem is that you have to return the car at the exact location where you picked it up. Obviously, if you allow renters to return their car to a different location the Zipcar company might run out of paid parking spaces in a particular location or, even worse, the cars might migrate to certain places, leaving other locations without any car.
I would like to propose an algorithm that will add some flexibility to where you can return a car, without overwhelming the system.
Here’s how it would work. Suppose we have three cars currently assigned to the Mt Auburn/Homer Ave location. I suggest we name three as a desirable number, but actually allow from three to four cars to be assigned to this location at any particular time.
Now suppose I want to pick up a car at the Mt Auburn/Homer Ave location and to return it to the Somerville Ave/Beacon location. If the number of currently assigned cars to Mt Auburn/Homer Ave location is three (at the lower limit), the Zipcar reservation webpage tells me, “Sorry, you can’t use this location unless you return your car back here,” and shows me the closest location with extra cars. The same goes if the number of assigned cars at the Somerville Ave/Beacon location is at its upper limit. If my starting point has more cars assigned to it than its lowest limit and my destination point has fewer cars assigned to it than its upper limit, then I am allowed to take a car from my starting location and return it to my destination. Zipcar can throw in some financial incentives. If my choice disrupts the most desirable balance of car assignments, I have to pay a fee. If my choice restores the balance, I get a bonus discount.
It would be so cool if zipcars were flexible. I understand that the average cost to the company of parking each car might go up with my flexible algorithm as Zipcar will need more parking spaces than cars. But Zipcar can start implementing this flexibility with a small number of flexible locations. It would be a great feature.
Hey, Zipcar algorithm designers! Can I get a bonus if you implement my algorithm? I can also design a financial incentives formula for you.Share: