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Avis Uses RFID for Remote Location Rentals

The new solution allows the company's corporate customers to set up their own rental locations for employees.
By Claire Swedberg
Once the driver has completed the online registration process and received a PIN specific to that rental transaction, he or she arrives at the lot and can then use a cell phone to send the PIN to Avis' Web site, in order to access the car. That data is retrieved by I.D. Systems software, which signals approval, via a cellular connection, to a WAM RFID transceiver located on that lot. Typically, says Greg Smith, I.D. Systems' VP, the WAM transmitter would be installed on a pole or wall somewhere within the lot area; because it has a read range of up to a half mile, he notes, only one device per lot is required. Upon receiving approval for access to that specific car, the device then transmits data including the unique ID number of an MVAC installed under the vehicle's dashboard. After receiving that 900 MHz UHF transmission, the MVAC triggers the unlocking of the driver's-side door.

The individual can then simply open the door handle and find the ignition key inside. The MVAC device installed in the car does more than just transmit data and unlock doors, however—it also tracks the vehicle's usage, monitoring the number of miles that the car travels before being returned, as well as the amount of fuel consumed and replenished. Once the car is returned to a lot—which need not necessarily occur at the same lot of origin—the WAM device captures the unique ID and other measurement data from the vehicle's MVAC device.

Greg Smith, I.D. Systems' VP
The WAM device employs a cellular connection to transmit that information to a back-end server, where the data is interpreted by I.D. Systems software and is then made available to the Avis system. The rental company can then bill accordingly for the vehicle's usage.

The solution was initially piloted using vehicles at multiple locations throughout the Northwest—one at a major airport, Smith says, and several others at the parking lots of various companies using Avis rental cars. "We were extremely happy with the pilot tests," Pereira says. "Avis On Location, based on many months of pilot tests... is able to provide the most scalable, flexible and customer-friendly solution ever offered. These attributes required extensive testing and development, and we believe Avis On Location now represents the best-in-class solution for providing corporate customers with an on-site rental-car service."

Initially, Avis intends to equip 25,000 of its vehicles in the United States and Canada—though primarily in the United States—and to begin providing virtual on-location services that could be used with just a few cars, or with hundreds. "It is designed to be a very flexible, rapidly deployable system," Smith states. Companies are currently trending toward providing rental cars to employees for travel during the workday, Avis reports—in some cases, to encourage workers to use mass transportation from home (they could access the rental vehicles during the day, if necessary).

Eventually, the company says it hopes to offer the system worldwide.

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