Japanese carmaker Toyota embraces innovation for the future of transportation by developing a Bluetooth-enabled device called the Smart Key Box enabling users to lock and unlock doors and start their engine just by using their smartphone.
According to Toyota, the Smart Key Box can be placed inside a vehicle without any significant modification. This allows private car owners to rent out their vehicle by sending a code to car-share customers which can then be used to access the box. The code can be authenticated via Bluetooth once the smartphone is brought near the vehicle--referred to as a handshake. This provides a safer and more secure way of lending and renting cars. The smartphone app is also connected to Toyota's cloud-based Mobility Services Platform where users can handle payments and schedule loans.
In October, Reuters reported that Toyota strategically invested $10 million in Getaround, a Silicon Valley car-sharing startup, and with this new partnership, Toyota plans to put the new feature to the test in a limited pilot in January 2017. This is Toyota's take in recognition of carsharing's increase in popularity with the emergence of services such as Daimler's Car2Go and General Motor's Maven.
President of Toyota's in-house Connected Company, Shigeki Tomoyama stated: "As a mobility service platform provider, by collaborating with various companies and services, we would like to help create a new mobility society in order to offer safer and more convenient mobility to our customers."
In 2017, Toyota will equip vehicles such as Lexus or Prius models with the Smart Key Box allowing it to be up for rental with Getaround. Toyota is also working to create a financial product that allows the lessee to use the income generated from car-sharing to pay off lease charges for their vehicles; this aims to increase the number of vehicles available for sharing in a more convenient manner--and to attract new users to mobility services.
It's interesting to see what data Toyota might gain from this endeavor. What other technologies might come from its mobility services platform and how it plans to remain a step ahead of its competitors.