January 14, 2014

Confessions of a Zipcar Wizard

We have a confession: when we told you that wizards were the ones who make Zipcars work, we had our fingers crossed behind our backs. The truth is, there’s a ton of technology behind why certain Zipcars know to let you in at a certain time  and to keep other people out. So how does it all work exactly?

  • Each and every Zipster has their own Zipcard, which contains an RFID (radio frequency identification) chip tied to an individual member account.
  • When you hold your Zipcard to the windshield transponder box, it reads the RFID chip and sends a message to the telematics system. (Fun fact: these transponder boxes are Zipcar-designed and built.)
  • When the Zipcar returns the message that yup, you do indeed have a reservation in this particular car at this particular time, the doors unlock and you can hit the road.  

The Wizarding Magic Behind Zipcar. The Wizarding Magic Behind Zipcar.

So what about those times when you scan your Zipcard and nothing happens? If a Zipcar doesn’t have your reservation on file just yet, it does a quick double check with our servers and refreshes itself. In the small amount of time it takes for you to adjust your mittens or put your coffee on top of the car to try again, oodles of activity has taken place allowing you to hop into your Zipcar.

On the off chance that it’s not quite your reservation time, or you try to scan into the wrong Zipcar (hey, it happens to the best of us), the Zipcard, transponder, and Zipcar go through the same process  but without letting you into the car. And, if a Zipcar is somehow open when it isn’t supposed to be in a reservation  like if you’re running REALLY late and haven’t called to let us know  it’s programmed to protect itself by going into lockdown mode. (One of the many reasons that we love punctual members who return on time.)

And there you have it: the wizarding magic behind Zipcar  revealed. Ta da.