"Audi on demand" is an app-based concierge service set to go live this week in San Francisco that gives users the chance to book the use of any car in the company's current range for up to a month.
The system, which will see anything from an A4 sedan to the latest R8 supercar delivered to a user's door and then collected again when the rental period is over, is the latest exploration by a car company into alternative ways of offering personal mobility.
The industry may have been very slow to react to concerns regarding the environment and the sustainability of fossil fuels, but now that it is alive to these issues it is very quickly making up for lost time.
The issue that Audi is trying to address, in a suitably premium way, is that people need different types of cars for different reasons.
"The service is rooted in customization, personalization and having the right car for the right moment," said Mark Del Rosso, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Audi of America. "Audi on demand delivers a truly premium experience, with concierges personally delivering and returning vehicles for customers where and when they need them."
With this in mind, users will be able to not only specify an exact vehicle -- the picture shown in the app will be the car (down to the color) that will be delivered -- but will also be able to add things like child seats or ski and bike racks to be fitted before the car arrives.
Unlike other 'spontaneous' rental programs, Audi on demand doesn't require membership fees and doesn't require users to travel to collect the car, which could prove a hugely popular feature in very urban, sprawling US cities in particular, where this app is being beta tested.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, fellow German automakers BMW and Mercedes have similar offerings. BMW's service, also called "on demand," lets a user rent any current modem plus a number of classic BMWs for personal use for as little as an hour; however, the car has to be collected from and returned to BMW.
Mercedes offers something called Car2Go, an app-accessible car-sharing service available in Europe and the US that offers members access to a fleet of two-seat petrol or electric-powered Smart cars. It currently boasts 1 million customers and across eight countries.