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The car rental industry has been rarely viewed as a world leader in the sense of technological development. In the past, even the quality of the cars being used was called into question, some customers claiming that the cars they hired had been so damaged by previous customers that they were just as likely to breakdown at the roadside as get you to your destination. This situation has definitely changed however; the car rental industry now embraces technological change, providing customers with an efficient and reliable service.

One of the largest influences on the car rental industry has been the impact of global warming and more widely the environmental concerns of customers. It is hoped by many car rental companies that by introducing more efficient cars into the fleet, fuel efficiency will be increased and customers will receive a better deal. This is not all of the car rental companies, but some have noticed the niche in the market for customers with an environmental conscience; revealing a wider trend not only in car hire but in society more generally.

The most obvious way that car rental companies can reduce their environmental impact is by introducing highly efficient cars into their fleets. An example would be the hybrid cars that are becoming extremely popular at the moment; they bring the benefits of a smaller environmental footprint and cheaper fuel rates for customers. Not all have embraced the introduction of hybrid cars however, some view their introduction as purely a temporary measure that in no way tackles the root causes of emissions. Additionally, the use of bio-fuel cars has been growing, while this fuel is cheap and produces less harmful emissions critics have been quick to realise that if all of the arable land in the world was turned over for the production of bio-fuel plants, then foodstuffs would be extremely short. It is all rather Malthusian but it is a good point nonetheless.

Some of the more future conscious car rental companies have been studying the ways in which to change the application of rates to customers. In the past companies would charge for the hire of a vehicle on a daily basis, meaning that if you returned the car just half an hour late, another day's charge would be added to the bill. Many companies have noticed that this is not great customer service and have subsequently introduced an hourly pay structure into their operations. While some profits may be surrendered following this strategy, customer service will be increased whilst a bi-product is that fewer cars will be on the road at any one time.

Many car rental companies have been quick to realise the benefits of GPS technology and the ways in which it can aide their operations. GPS tracking devices give the rental company the option to track their fleet vehicles, allowing them to record the way in which cars are being driven and their location. While for many this may be seen as an invasion of privacy, it is not; it is simply a reaction to the large amount of organised crime that focuses on the theft of rental cars. With GPS technology the chances of a company recovering the stolen vehicle are increased considerably, showing that this strategy is simply a way for companies to protect their assets.

The introduction of high technology to the car rental industry has been a long time in coming. Whether this is due to a reluctance to change or simply because the technology has not been effective enough is hard to ascertain. One thing is certain however, with the introduction of GPS, biometric data recorders, environmentally friendly cars and revolutionary pay structures; the future of the car rental industry is bright.


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