Hertz's automated self-service aims to cut long lines, prices

Standing in line for a rental car you've already reserved online can be a hassle. Hertz's new automated self-service program, launching September 14, aims to put an end to the wait.

You will still have to reserve your car online, but once you arrive to pick it up you'll notice a major difference. Instead of working with a flesh-and-blood person, you will be dealing with a machine.

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This "automated rental agent" requires a printed Web reservation with a bar code and a scan of your driver's license, then offers the choice of several options, such as insurance and additional drivers. After you successfully complete the transaction, the machine prints out a rental agreement, and the keys await you in your appointed vehicle.

Although the program seems simple enough, actual human personnel will be available for help if anything goes awry. And anyone who's stood in line at the automated checkout in the grocery store knows something usually goes awry.

The biggest bonus of this new computerized set-up is the low prices Hertz will offer for rentals: $15 per weekend day or $94 per week. Eight different types of vehicles will be available to choose from, and all will include the options of portable GPS and roadside assistance.

These rental robots are currently only offered at the Orlando airport, but if all goes well, you can be certain they'll appear at more locations in the future.

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