Car2go on NW service disruption: ‘We’re going to get this fixed’

Blog coverage sponsored by Drive Less Connect, ODOT’s sweet ride-matching service.

Car2go officials discuss the location of their recent outagePortland’s flashy new carsharing service is having technical difficulties in northwest Portland.

A cell tower disruption in the Pearl District last week has knocked out much of Car2go’s service in the area surrounding its own office, roughly between Lovejoy and Burnside, Interstate 405 and the Willamette River, spokeswoman Katie Stafford said Tuesday.

If Car2go members try to start or finish a trip in the area, they may find themselves unable to open the car – or unable to end their trip, for which they’re paying 35 cents a minute. This is because, unlike Zipcar, Car2go vehicles must communicate with their central network at each end of every trip.

See below the jump for how to avoid paying for a bad connection, plus details about Portland Afoot’s new unofficial email alert for future Car2go disruptions.

Stafford said any Car2go users struggling to end a trip should turn their car off and on again, then park in a slightly different space. If that doesn’t work, she said, call the company’s 24/7 call center at 877-488-4224 and ask for the car to be turned off remotely. (This process uses a separate, backup network.) She also said the company would reimburse any minutes wasted due to a bad connection, and had also been offering extra free minutes as an apology.

Stafford said she didn’t have or couldn’t release information about the number of complaints received. Because the company doesn’t have a software system for tracking spikes in phone complaints from a certain area, it’s not clear whether Car2go has identified all its local trouble spots.

the conference room of Car2go's Pearl District officeBut Portland’s 8-person team and Car2go’s Iowa-based call center are focused on finding and resolving any connectivity problems they detect, Stafford said.

“It’s a topic that we talk about every single day that it’s happening,” she said. “We’re going to get this fixed.”

Stafford attributed the problem to a combination of routine cell tower trouble and the company’s still-limited knowledge of the local cell network.

“Most people who are the early adopters do understand that these things happen,” Stafford added, saying that the company thinks its benefits outweigh its occasional problems. “The same way you have problems with your cell phone. … These cars are, like, little apps on wheels.”

Portland Afoot’s wiki page about Car2go (which has been one of our top Google traffic drivers since the service launched in late March) now has a brief guide to Car2go service disruptions – as well as a link to an unofficial alert system I threw together that will send you an email every time Car2go Portland’s Twitter feed makes a general announcement about “disruption” or “maintenance.” (There’s an RSS, too.)

If you want to increase the chance that you’re aware of any future Car2go outages, sign up – it’s free.

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