Toyota “smart key box” will facilitate carsharing

Cross-posted from Clean Technica, November 30th, 2016 by  

Following on practically every other major auto manufacturer out there entering the carsharing business, Toyota has apparently decided to as well. They’ve decided to do it a bit differently than most, though — with the use of a “Smart Key Box” being integral to the idea.

smart-key-box

This Bluetooth-enabled device will allow users to unlock and start carshare vehicles using nothing but their smartphones. Some other carsharing companies offer such easy access as well, but Toyota seems intent on making it more accessible, allowing people to add their own cars to the fleet. People who want to offer up their vehicles for occasional carsharing service will be able to do so without too much trouble.

The Verge provides more: “Here’s how it will work: a vehicle owner who wants to make some money on the side lending their car to other people can install the Smart Key Box on their dashboard, no modification needed. The car-share customer is sent a code via an app to access the box. When the smartphone is brought near the vehicle, the codes are authenticated via Bluetooth — Toyota calls it a ‘handshake’ — similar to regular smart key. The time and period when the user can access the Smart Key Box is set and managed by Toyota, based on the vehicle reservation.”

A very interesting idea, though we’ll have to wait to see how viable it is in practice. A limited pilot program testing the idea will be taking place in 2017 in San Francisco in partnership with the peer-to-peer carsharing service Getaround.

Toyota recently provided $10 million in funding to Getaround, presumably in association with this pilot program. This pilot program will apparently be open only to owners of the new Prius or owners of any recent Lexus models.