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New Technologies Being Utilised In The Car Hire Industry

Apr 9, 2008
The car hire industry has long been viewed as somewhat of a dinosaur in terms of technological development and implementation. Many will remember booking a hire car for their holiday only to find a spluttering little 'box on wheels' that is just as likely to break down than get you from A to B. Things are changing however, the industry has recognised the importance of providing quality car hire options for travellers.

A major influence on the car hire industry has been the increasing concerns over global warming and the effect we are having upon the planet. Through more efficient technologies the industry has been striving to produce rental options that will appeal to customers with an environmental conscience. This is not all car hire firms; many have not taken environmental concerns on board, but there are a number of companies who are actively changing the way they operate to meet the demands of the ever-growing environmentally friendly market.

Most obviously car hire companies can adopt an eco-friendly strategy that involves the introduction of hybrid cars in rental fleets. Whilst these cars are definitely the right way to go, many commentators have criticised this as a half measure and questioned the viability of hybrid cars as a long term solution to the problem of emissions. There are also the effects that hybrid cars using bio-fuels are having on wheat production and the cost of wheat worldwide. With a limit on good arable land it is unsurprising that many have questioned the logic of using foodstuffs as a major fuel, surely at some point a Malthusian standpoint must be taken and the resources at our disposal must be measured efficiently.

Other technologies introduced by some forward thinking car hire companies are a changing in the way rates are applied. For instance some companies have started to charge on an hourly rather than daily basis. This means that a customer who only has to drive a short distance, for instance to pick up their own car, only needs to hire the car for an hour. While the company may well lose some profits, it is possible to reduce the time any car spends on the road with this method and hence reduce both congestion and emissions.

Car hire companies are also rapidly introducing black box recorders to their fleets. This is a technology that through GPS tracking can ascertain where a car is at any one moment. This is a strategy that hopes to limit the amount of cars lost to theft whilst also picking up on customers who break speeding regulations whilst hiring a car. This is essentially a protective measure to ensure that car hire fleets remain in good condition and are not damaged by excessive driving. It does however raise a privacy argument as nobody really appreciates having a company know of their whereabouts at all times.

Another protective measure introduced by car hire companies has been the recording of biometric data from customers. In collaboration with local police forces, procedures are now in place at many desks to record a thumbprint of a customer ensuring an electronic record is taken of their details. This has predominantly been a response to high numbers of thefts by organised crime syndicates who use false documents to hire cars. The recording of thumbprints means that if a theft does occur it is possible to hand over the information to the police and speed up any tracing procedures.

The introduction of technology in the car hire industry can be seen as a twofold approach. Firstly the industry is trying to move away from the gas guzzling image for a more eco-friendly perspective. The second approach is utilising new technologies to safeguard fleets. With firms increasingly being targeted by organised criminals this is an unsurprising development to protect their investments. New technology will hopefully lead to an industry that is both secure for the firms and also friendly to the environment.
About the Author
Industry expert Thomas Pretty looks into ways in which the car hire industry is using new technologies to tackle the problems it faces.
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