Qatar is certainly a country that loves its cars and, of course, none more so than the notorious Land Cruiser. But this post is not a rant about how reckless so many Land Cruiser drivers are (high beams anyone?!), rather it is about a way to potentially reduce traffic in the country, help with parking and, perhaps, decrease the need for endless huge cars on the city streets here. That solution is something I desperately miss from my days in the U.S., Zipcar, which is the latest technology I want to see in Qatar.
With Zipcar, it is not the cars that are the new technology, rather it is the way they are used and shared. Zipcar is a car share service that allows members to book cars online, pick them up at locations around a city, select different types of cars and use them for as little as an hour, or rent them for a few days. You simply register to become a Zipcar member online, and once approved after a check of your driving history you receive an access card and membership number. Once you have these, you book the car you want online for the time slot you want, select a pick-up location and then gain access to your car using the access card. All electronic and no interaction with booking agents – simple! There is a low annual membership fee, and petrol and insurance are included in the rates of the cars.
Zipcar is widespread throughout the U.S. and Canada, and has also expanded into parts of Europe. It is most popular in big cities where it often does not make sense to own a car, but where the occasional need arises when a car is a must, such as a run to Ikea. This is how I used my Zipcar membership when I lived in DC. In Doha, we don’t have quite the urban life of some of the cities that have embraced Zipcar, but we do have a growing traffic problem, unreliable taxis and way too many giant cars that frankly are only needed if someone is driving into the desert. Zipcars parked around the city could decrease the number of people that actually need their own car and possibly encourage people to buy smaller cars because they could get that honking Land Cruiser online for the 5 days a year they actually go off road.
Yes, I know cars are in many ways a status symbol here, but for much of the population a full-time car (or two+ full time cars) are not needed. Zipcars wouldn’t solve all of our transport issues, but perhaps it could make a dent, and for people without a car, it’s a great way to have one when you needed it – empowered by a very smart e-commerce model. Bring on the Zipcars Qatar!
More cool technology I want to see in Qatar: