March 7, 2021

GIG vehicle gets stuck on Washington ferry, resurfacing car-share concern on state’s vessels

AAA’s GIG car-share service launched in Seattle this summer. (GeekWire File Photo / Taylor Soper)

More than three years after BMW ReachNow had to deal with its vehicles becoming disabled on Washington State Ferries, a new car-sharing company has suffered a similar fate.

A deckhand on a ferry running between Mukilteo, Wash., And Clinton, Wash., Told GeekWire that a driver using GIG, a car-share service from AAA, got stuck on the ferry this past weekend when the Toyota he was driving would not restart.

The car could not be put in gear or neutral and couldn’t be moved, and the deckhand said the tight, single-lane spot where it was parked prevented about 15 or 20 more vehicles from being able to load onto the ferry.

“I’m a deckhand on the Washington State Ferries, and so I load and unload cars and see this stuff whenever it happens,” said the deckhand, who wished to remain anonymous. “I see more stupid stuff than you can imagine.”

The deckhand said the GIG driver made the 20-minute crossing between Mukilteo and Clinton three times as he worked with GIG customer service over the phone to get his car restarted.

A Washington State Ferry arrives in Mukilteo, Wash. (GeekWire File Photo / Kurt Schlosser)

A representative for GIG, which launched in Seattle this summer, told GeekWire that it offers a “convenient, affordable, and safe mobility option.”

“Our product features are focused on member protection and safety,” said Sergio Avila, a public relations specialist with AAA. “One of these features includes an anti-theft mechanism to safeguard members and is activated if a vehicle is left unlocked with the ignition off.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the ferry system has asked drivers aboard its vessels to stay in their vehicles to avoid crowding on upper decks. When the driver who got stuck turned off his GIG car, stayed in it and did not lock it, the car’s system went into anti-theft mode. Drivers are also not permitted to abandon a vehicle for security concerns.

“When a car gets locked due to inactivity, a member can unlock it via the app, Gig Card or by calling member support,” Avila said. “If the member manually locks the car and sits inside, they will still have to go through the app to unlock the car as they would if they got out to run an errand.”

PREVIOUSLY: Car sharing returns to Seattle, but will it last? Testing AAA’s new GIG service during a pandemic

GIG expanded in Seattle earlier this month, bucking the recent trend of car-share programs pulling out of the city. GIG grew its footprint from 15 to 23 square miles and added another 120 Toyota Prius vehicles to its fleet, on top of the 250 cars it made available at launch. Avila said demand has been strong in Seattle and overall GIG membership sits at more than 70,000.

In 2017, BMW’s ReachNow vehicles were getting stuck on ferries when a security feature kicked in because the cars were moving while turned off. As ReachNow worked on that problem, the car-share company had to advise drivers not to bring the cars onto ferries.

Ian Sterling, public information officer for Washington State Ferries, said WSF worked closely with ReachNow to try to diagnose what was happening with those cars, and then helped the company get the message out about avoiding ferries. Sterling hadn’t yet heard of the GIG incident.

“Cars break down on ferries on a pretty regular basis, unfortunately,” Sterling said. “This would be the first car-share issue onboard that I have heard of in quite some time. … If this becomes a pattern, we’ll reach out to GIG as well. ”

The deckhand who spoke to GeekWire just chuckled at all he has seen in years working on the vessels.

“I am not a super computer guy, but I’m a very practical guy. Who writes these programs? ” the deckhand said of the car-share tech. “Because there’s things happening that they can’t imagine.”