The next step in car rentals?

If needing to go to the rental depot to pick up your hire car or van is a frustration, Toyota may have the technological solution.

Toyota Huiphoto credit: Toyota

When you think about it, it’s probably the next natural step in car rental. If every advance is designed to improve the rental experience, then what could be better than eliminating the need to go anywhere near the rental depot?

That’s the thinking behind Toyota’s latest innovation, which it’s currently trialling in Hawaii. As The Japan Times reports, instead of renting at and driving away from a rental depot, drivers can now book online and pick their car up from one of 25 pickup stations, renting by the hour or day.

The move is a response to the challenge of Uber – and gives drivers greater freedom in where they pick up and drop off cars. So could it work here?

Theoretically yes, although there’s a reason the system is being trialled on a conveniently self-contained (and fairly small) island. Within cities and metropolitan areas (so, for example, across the Leeds and Bradford area) you could create a network of rental pickup sites from which you could collect and drop off your car or van rental.

As you expand nationally, however, the logistics become more of a challenge. How do you keep each location stocked with the right number of vehicles without creating a logistical nightmare? The system only works as long as cars are in the right place for the people who’ve booked them – and that is surely considerably easier to manage in localised areas.

There are already big plans for the system, however, and Australia could be the next step. Like every UK rental company, we’ll keep an eye on this too, so that in the future, when you hire a van or car from TJS, you may be able to pick it up from the street next to you.

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