I live in Brighton, a city notorious for its hatred of the automobile. With the density of population continuing to increase, the joy of owning a car is often outweighed by the cost and aggravation of looking after the thing. Most urban areas have relatively good transportation systems, so making do without a car may be the future for many city dwellers. However, there are occasions when using a car is simply unavoidable. Filling this niche are smart-city initiatives such as the Enterprise Car Club.

Through the use of a smartphone app, a user is able to quickly locate a nearby car, book it for a few hours and drive off without needing to spend hours behind a counter, filling out forms and dealing with ‘optional extras.’

Setting up an account requires sending Enterprise a copy of your driving licence and a photo. I used the online service, and within a few hours was registered and able to pick up a car. Finding a car (or van) is straightforward. Simply select a location (or use your current location) and a list of nearby cars appears. Pick a date and time range and then choose a suitable vehicle. Finally, rock up to the car, use the app to unlock it (or use a RFC payment card for first use) and drive off. It really is that simple. Insurance and fuel are covered in the mileage rate (a fuel card is provided in the car). Finally, return the car back to the space where you found it at the end of the rental period, or extend your time (otherwise you face some stiff penalties.)

I’ve used this service a few times now, and have been very impressed with the ease of use and convenience. Certainly, it is more expensive that traditional forms of car hire (particularly if you need more than a few hours,) but this is offset by the time saved by simply grabbing a car that is likely parked a street away. Having to return the car to the original parking spot is the greatest annoyance, ruling out some longer journeys. However, in time I would hope that the system becomes intelligent enough to allow an alternative return location to be selected. In the meantime, however, I can recommend this as a solution for urban dwellers with only an occasional need for a car.

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