Transportation is going through a serious transformation. One that will lead many people away from car ownership and towards a kind of mobility ecosystem that makes getting around easier than ever before. One of the companies at the forefront of this new world is General Motors.

Maven, the company’s personal mobility solution, is helping to shape that future. It is changing the way people move about and live their lives. We got the chance to sit down and talk with Stefan Cross of GM and Deric Harwood, Maven’s Chicago General Manager, at the 2017 Chicago Auto Show to get more details on the service.  

How Maven Works

Maven

Maven offers an innovative solution to anyone who lives in the cities that the car sharing service operates in. It may feature modern, complex technology, but the way it works is quite simple.

According to Harwood, you download the Maven app on your smartphone and once you do, you can reserve a vehicle you want. You specify when you want the car and for about how long, and then you pick it up when it’s scheduled. You pay per hour that the vehicle is used. The Maven app connects with the cars and handles everything. Also, it’s free to join and download the app.

“As it stands today, free membership is the course of action we’re looking to stick with,” Harwood told us.

The cars you get aren’t some stripped down, bargain basement model either. The models you can reserve from Maven come well-equipped. According to Harwood, they have things like 4G LTE Wifi, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Sirius XM Radio, leather seating surfaces in most models and OnStar.

Maven

There’s also different levels of vehicles. You can choose one of the following four different levels: Eco, Compact, Sedan or SUV. On Maven’s website, it differentiates the different types of cars you can choose. For instance, Eco is a Chevy Volt or a vehicle like the Volt; Compact is a Chevy Cruze or Spark or a similar vehicle; Sedan is a Chevy Malibu, Buick Regal, Cadillac ATS or a similar car; and SUV can be anything similar to a Chevy Tahoe, GMC Yukon or Cadillac Escalade.

Pricing is $8 per hour for all levels except SUV, which is $12 per hour. The price per hour includes the rental of the car, gasoline and insurance. This means you would have no other car expenses, other than what you pay to maven for the vehicle use, of course. If your car is running low on gas while you use it, there is a Maven gas card in the car that you can use to fill up the tank at no extra charge to you.

After driving the car you’ve reserved, you must return it to the same station you picked it up from. Both Harwood and Cross acknowledged that this is one of the weak points of the Maven car sharing program, but said things could change in the future. In fact, beta testing for dropping a car off at a different location than the one you picked your car up at is already happening in Michigan.

“Depending on how the beta testing goes in Detroit and Ann Arbor, we may see that proliferate through the country,” said Harwood.

Where It's Available

Maven

Maven’s services in conjunction with the partnership with Lyft operates in about 17 locations across the U.S. and Canada. Cross told us the Maven City, the car sharing service described above runs in about 12 cities. The Maven brand also operates in partnership with Lyft to offer a couple different personal mobility solutions.

The list of cities is as follows: Ann Arbor, Michigan; Atlanta; Baltimore; Chicago; Denver; Detroit; Lost Angeles; Jersey City, New Jersey; Nashville, Tennessee; New York City; Orlando, Florida; Phoenix; San Diego; San Francisco; Washington, D.C.; and Waterloo, Ontario Canada.

Maven has just recently expanded its offerings in Atlanta and will likely continue to expand in every city it operates in. It will also add new cities as things progress. 

How Customers Use the Vehicles

Maven

You might see Maven as a once in a while thing, but the folks at Maven and GM see it as a car ownership alternative. Harwood said that people are using the vehicles for a variety of reasons. Whether it's to get access to a vehicle type they don’t own—using an SUV to go to the home improvement store for drywall or other large items for example—or just as an alternative to public transportation or typical car ownership.

“It’s interesting to be able to look at the patterns of when the vehicles are being used and make a pretty good deduction as to what they’re being used for,” said Harwood. 

“ You might see Maven as a once in a while thing, but the folks at Maven and GM see it as a car ownership alternative. ”

According to Harwood, most of the compacts and small cars go out for a couple hours and are most likely used to run errands and do things like buy groceries and other short errands. The higher-class, larger sedans are used in the evenings often, and Maven expects business people are taking clients to dinner with the cars. The SUVs are mostly used on the weekends and are typically checked out the longest. Because of this, the service believes they’re being used to do jobs like move furniture, go to the home improvement store and generally take longer trips.

Maven

We asked why pickup trucks were not included in the Maven lineup, and Harwood told us that the current generation trucks don’t have the technology to support the app. Future models will be equipped with the technology, but Harwood and Cross couldn’t say definitively if they would be included in the future.

We also asked if cars for enthusiasts would be a part of the program's future. It was clear nothing is in the works but neither Cross or Harwood completely shot it down.

“It’s a great idea to bring up for the future,” said Harwood. “I think it would depend on what part of the country you’re in. A Cadillac CTS-V might not be so good here in the city of Chicago but maybe out on the West Coast, it could be an option. Right now we’re sticking to the cars that are the most useful to the most people for their regular endeavors.”

How Things are Going So Far

Maven

The Maven car sharing service has grown steadily and quickly since its launch in 2016. According to Harwood, since launch, about 23,000 people have signed up for a membership with Maven. The growth has been consistent and steady and both Cross and Harwood said they expect that to triple over this year.

“ The growth has been consistent and steady and both Cross and Harwood said they expect that to triple over this year. ”

“We’ve been having about 23 to 25 percent growth month over month,” said Cross. “We’d like to keep it up because that’s a solid growth number. Each city will also have its own projections."

Cross said that the service could experience more than 25 percent growth, depending on the city and the location it is in the country. This means if you live in an urban environment, you may see more cars with a Maven sticker in the window near you.