Vanguard Car Rental USA announced the launch of an automated kiosk system for its Alamo Rent A Car and National Car Rental brands that enables customers to avoid waiting in line.

The touch-screen kiosks will roll out this year and next year in dozens of Alamo and National locations. By next summer, Vanguard expects the service to be running at 73 National and 80 Alamo locations (Vanguard has a combined total of 623 U.S. locations).

The touch-screen kiosk allows any customer with a valid driver's license, major credit card and an existing reservation to skip the rental counter and check in directly at the kiosk. After a customer agrees to the terms and conditions, a receipt-sized rental agreement is printed from the kiosk and the customer is directed to his or her rental car on the lot. At the exit booth, the customer simply shows the booth agent his or her rental agreement and driver's license and then drives away.

The kiosk also allows the customer to review rental information, upgrade to a larger car class, add additional drivers, and purchase option items such as child car seats, a GPS unit, Collision Damage Waiver (CDW), and Pre Pay Gasoline.

Although the wait time to pick up a vehicle has improved 15 percent across all companies this year versus 2005, consumers still stand in line an average 21.5 minutes, causing customer satisfaction to drop to a below-average level, according to J.D. Power and Associates. Vanguard was motivated to pursue the plan by consumer acceptance of airline automated ticketing kiosks, MediaPost's Marketing Daily reports.

Hertz, Avis and Budget have tried kiosks in the past, according to MediaPost's Marketing Daily. Last year, Avis experimented with kiosks at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport that offered service when the vehicle was returned. The Avis system allowed customers returning cars to check in for Delta Air Lines flights at Avis' shuttle bus stops.