The Only Way to Go

 A new form of transportation takes clients on a wild ride in San Francisco

By: Carole Terwilliger Meyers

I am nervous as my husband revs the engine and takes us around a corner just a wee bit too fast. The bumpy, breezy ride, which hits every rut in the road, leaves my butt buzzing, but I find myself saying, “This is cool.” And, indeed it is, both figuratively and literally, for we are in San Francisco in summer with the top of our little car wide open to the sky and nature. We cuddle together and rely on mutual body heat and fleece jackets to keep us warm.

As we roar down the street, people smile and wave to us as if we are celebrities. We are seeing San Francisco’s sights from the world’s first computer-guided storytelling car. It tells us when to turn, where to turn, and if we are in the wrong lane. And it’s so much fun, it really is the only way to go.

Our journey began back at the Fisherman’s Wharf office. After a short tutorial, we donned safety helmets and climbed into our bright yellow car. Made in Holland, each seats two and can go up to 35 mph (we stayed under 30). The onboard GPS provides a custom narration, leading drivers on either, or both, of two routes — waterfront/Golden Gate Park or downtown/Union Square — and describes the sights you are passing.

Our talking car guided us past Alcatraz (our car told us that it is the most visited landmark in the U.S.), through the Presidio and bustling Crissy Field (which we were informed was where the first successful flight from the mainland to Hawaii originated), past the Cliff House and on to Ocean Beach. And even though I am a native San Franciscan, this car took me places I’d never been before — including George Lucas’ new studio in the Presidio.

When our three-wheel vehicle with a motorcycle engine informed us, “I’m not allowed on the freeway,” my husband and I responded, “Thank goodness.”

Though it is possible to park the sporty GoCar in any legal motorcycle or car parking spot and take time for exploration or a snack, we stopped only once — in Golden Gate Park, by the Buffalo Paddock, to adjust our helmets and stretch.

GoCar Rentals’ owner Nathan Withrington, a mechanical engineer, began business two years ago with eight cars and now has 32. The script is available in five languages (English, French, German, Spanish, and Italian).

Typical rentals like ours last about two hours. However, because the price per hour goes down each hour, it makes sense to rent it for the whole day and pack in a lot of sightseeing.

So far, GoCars are available only in San Francisco.


GoCar Tours

GoCars can be rented either downtown next to the Hilton and Nikko hotels, or at Fisherman’s Wharf, next to upscale restaurant Gary Danko.

$44 for first hour, $34 for second, then $24 for each additional hour up to five hours, then no additional charge. Daily collision damage waiver (CDW) is $9.


Commission: 20 percent