Mini South Africa, part of the BMW Group South Africa (BMW SA), aims to launch a pilot car-sharing scheme in Sandton, Johannesburg, in the third quarter of this year.
Participants will be able to use the participating cars with “just a few taps on their smartphones”, says the car maker.
“Mini drivers are always ahead of their time and, with Mini Sharing, we will enable a group of Mini fans to participate in the burgeoning sharing economy in this country," notes Mini South Africa head Shaun Willis.
"Mini is taking on a pioneering and innovative role in advancing urban mobility in South Africa. Mini Sharing creates new opportunities to share the Mini experience and this technology fits perfectly with our desirable cars and our innovative customer demographic.”
Initially, Mini Sharing will be available to a closed group of users in Sandton, although plans are afoot to expand the offering to other quintessentially urban locations within South Africa.
"There is a growing demand for flexible mobility services in urban areas, such as Sandton, where the lack of parking, congestion and high costs mean that fewer people use their own cars," explains BMW SA spokesperson Hailey Philander.
"Mini Sharing is poised to fill this gap. It is designed to be as convenient as having and using your own car, and is similar to the BMW DriveNow car sharing service offered in Europe."
Philander says advanced navigation and vehicle location systems, and widespread smartphone adoption, mean that Mini can now explore a "convenient and flexible car-sharing system that is easy to access and intuitive".
Mini Sharing will be accessible via a smartphone app that will be used to register the user, load driving licence information and register the payment method, among other features.
Typical car-sharing schemes currently active in a number of global cities – such as DriveNow – generally refer to the short-term ‘rental’ of participating vehicles for short-range driving.
A smartphone app shows a potential customer to the nearest available parked car – the user can also book a car beforehand –with the same app allowing access to the car. The driver then uses the vehicle to drive to their destination, usually within a limited range, and leaves the vehicle for the next customer to find.
One such scheme in Germany allows access to more than 6 300 cars, for example, with users paying a per-minute fee.
Car-sharing has, in some cities and for some customers, negated the need to own a car.