RelayRides Reaches Deal To Make Its Peer-To-Peer Car Rentals Legal At SFO

RelayRides is serious about entering the airport car rental market and enabling its users to make their vehicles available to travelers when not in use. It took a big step in that direction over the summer, when it launched its peer-to-peer rentals at San Francisco International Airport.

Now RelayRides is solidifying its spot at SFO by striking a deal with the airport to clear up any questions about the legality of its service there. As part of the deal, the company has agreed to pay a fee for customers that are traveling through the airport, and it’s also partnered with a nearby lot and shuttle service to reduce congestion at arrivals and departures drop-off points.

For RelayRides, making peer-to-peer rentals available at airports is a natural fit, particularly as the company is focusing more heavily on long-term rentals. The company ended its hourly rental feature in October, due to lackluster demand in that area, and is betting the future of the business on multiday rentals.

Travelers figure to be a part of that as well, as it gave users the ability to begin listing their cars at nearby airports in June. But its implementation at SFO is probably the best example of what RelayRides would like to do on a large scale: The company has partnered with a nearby parking lot to house rentals for travelers leaving the Bay Area and making their cars available to renters while they’re gone.

RelayRides isn’t the only startup seeking to make peer-to-peer car rentals available at airports. FlightCar, which launched earlier this year at SFO and has raised $6.1 million from General Catalyst and Softbank Capital (among others) is also working to connect passengers with cheaper car rental prices at the airport. But while FlightCar has resisted working with SFO to date, RelayRides wanted to get ahead of any controversy by striking a deal with the airport.

There were two main concerns from the airport when it set up shop, according to RelayRides CEO Andre Haddad. The first was that it would contribute back fees to the airport for passengers that used its service, in the same way cabs, black cars, and shuttle buses do. The other concern was around congestion, and how it would reduce bottlenecks at the terminal.

On the first point, RelayRides is paying a portion of its revenues for travelers who come from SFO back to the airport. And it’s reducing congestion by offering parking at a local lot and sharing shuttles to the airport.

For RelayRides, the deal will help avoid any run-ins with SFO, which has been trying to crack down on various startups that operate outside the traditional framework that its existing transportation partners follow. For instance, the airport issued cease-and-desist letters to ride-sharing companies like Lyft and SideCar earlier this year because those services fail to pay the typical fees that cabs do when picking up or dropping off passengers.

More broadly, though, RelayRides is trying to work with local regulators and governments whenever possible, even going so far as to suspend service in New York after being hit with a cease-and-desist order there. The company, which has raised $30 million from investors that include GM, Shasta Ventures, August Capital, and Google Ventures, hopes that by doing so it can help ensure that peer-to-peer car rentals remain here to stay.

Photo Credit: Håkan Dahlström via Compfight cc