Toyota is the latest car manufacturer looking into the sharing economy, thanks to its development of what it calls a “mobility services platform.” The first product it’s experimenting with is a Smart Key Box, which promises to transform vehicles so they can be shared with anyone using a mobile device.
To test its theory and see if its Smart Key Box can gain any traction, Toyota has teamed up with Getaround, in a deal revealed last week, to form a strategic investment through its Mirai Creation Investment Limited Partnership. Beginning January 2017 in San Francisco, Getaround will leverage the car maker’s technology in its vehicles, starting with select Lexus or Prius models, so drivers do not need to use physical car keys.
The Smart Key Box is a gadget that can be placed in a vehicle without any significant modifications being made. Drivers can then lock and unlock doors and start the engine just by using their phone. Toyota explained that through its app, car renters will receive codes to access the Smart Key Box. The software will automatically unlock the vehicle when in close proximity, transmitting a signal through Bluetooth Low Energy. The company believes that by modernizing access, it makes the process of lending and renting cars safer and more secure.
Installing the Smart Key Box is simple: Just place it somewhere in your car, such as in your glove compartment, trunk, cup holder, or dashboard, or affix it to your windshield (obviously in a place that doesn’t obstruct your view).