If you’ve been driving long enough, you might be familiar with the complete sense of despair that comes along with being stuck on the side of the road for whatever reason. If you’re in the city, you’re “that person” who is holding up miles of traffic and has one of the main arteries of commerce and transportation shut down to one lane; if you’re elsewhere, there’s little comfort in being sidelined an hour from the nearest sign of civilization.
In the past, you’d hike to the nearest phone (if your mobile device wasn’t cooperating), call the nearest wrecker, and wait for the privilege of paying them a handsome fee for moving your vehicle from the highway to the shop. In fact, rescuing stranded motorists has proven to be such a good business model that the core business of AAA is built on road-side assistance.
If you run out of gas, a bad alternator shuts your car down, you lock yourself out, or for whatever reason find yourself on the side of the road, AAA has built its name on coming to the aid of its members. But like most old-school companies, some Silicon-Valley upstart is bound to come in and give its biz model an overhaul. Enter Openbay, the mechanic-cross shopping app that allows users to compare prices for specific jobs and recently partnered with Allstate.
It’s probably important to note that Openbay isn’t the Uber to AAA’s taxi. It is now offering just the roadside assistance service, leveraging a network of service providers (read: tow and salvage companies) to come to the aid of a stranded Openbay app-holder. Per the company’s release, the service breaks down something like this:
- Openbay users submit a request for service via the Openbay mobile app.
- Using GPS, the user’s exact location is determined and validated by the user. For tow requests, the user enters the final destination of vehicle, which generates a fixed price based on mileage.
- Users are required to select and then enter their preferred payment method: credit card, debit card, or Apple Pay.
- Openbay provides a summary of the services requested prior to booking.
- Using a proximity-based dispatch system, the nearest and best equipped service vehicle is notified with all the detail on the service.
- Once the service vehicle is dispatched, the user will receive a confirmation text message with the estimated time of arrival and information on the provider.
- Upon service completion, Openbay processes payment.
Unlike AAA, Openbay doesn’t require annual membership. Provided that you have an account that allows you to access the app, each payment is processed on an as-needed basis, so you’re not spending money for coverage that you won’t necessarily use.
“Consumers are holding onto their vehicles a lot longer, thanks to higher quality parts and service. Nearly 60% of the vehicles on the road are more than nine years old, and more likely to require roadside service than newer vehicles,” said Rob Infantino, founder and CEO of Openbay. “Now, Openbay combines the convenience of on demand roadside with our auto repair marketplace, delivering speed and removing hassle from car care, and meeting the expectations consumers have with today’s online and on demand services.”
Flatrate pricing for roadside assistance starts at $64.95 and towing services start at $79.95 for up to five miles, with tiered pricing for additional miles, the company said, adding that Openbay Roadside Assistance is currently only available within Openbay’s iOS mobile app (there’s an Android version as well).
If you’re not an existing AAA member, don’t fret. We’re coming into the most popular driving season of the year, and over the course of the summer, many thousands of people will experience accidents (your humble author himself hit a deer last week), breakdowns, and other automotive incapacities. Instead of relying on a vague Google search for the nearest shop, Openbay is like the smart kid that lets you copy their homework. And did they ever let you down?