One of the biggest auto-sellers in the world, Toyota has developed a Bluetooth-enabled device that lets users to unlock and start their cars using their smartphones. Now the Japanese automaker wants to use this device to enter the ever expending car-sharing market.
The Smart Key Box that can be installed in any car without any modification lets users lend their cars to other people to earn some extra buck.
How it works
A code is sent to the car-share customer via an app to access the box. When the customer brings his smartphone near the vehicle, the device authenticate the codes via Bluetooth. Toyota calls it a “handshake” — similar to regular smart key. Based on the vehicle reservation, the time period during which the customer can access the Smart Key Box is set and managed by Toyota.
Toyota is joining hands with a peer-to-peer car-sharing service called Getaround to put the technology to test next year in San Francisco. The ride sharing service received a $10 million investment from a fund controlled by Toyota last week. The investment from the fund, which usually spends money on AI and robotics, is a sign that Toyota is interested in expanding into car-sharing market.
Not everyone can be part of the project as only people who own the new Prius or any model Lexus can participate in the car-sharing pilot.
It seems that Toyota is bit late to enter the car-sharing market as some of its competitors are already into the business. Daimler, the parent company of Mercedes-Benz, owns Car2Go, while General Motors has launched its own car-sharing service called Maven, which just recently expanded to Los Angeles.
Other auto-makers like Ford and BMW have already entered the car-sharing business; Tesla is planning to launch its own car-sharing network in the near future. Toyota says it also plans to create a new financial product that allows people to use car-sharing to pay off leases charges for their vehicles.