Toyota's innovative Smart Key Box is the automaker's further venture in the car-sharing market. It's a Bluetooth-enabled device that helps users to unlock and start up their cars. The catch is, vehicle owners can use their smartphones instead of the regular car keys.
Toyota's Smart Key Box
Toyota explained that the Smart Key Box can be installed in the car's dashboard without modification. It's through the Smart Key Box that the vehicle owner can start the engine or unlock its door. It works in the car-sharing service market. According to CNET, the driver will arrange a loan of the car with a smartphone app.
This app should be connected to Toyota's cloud-based Mobility Services Platform. It could handle payments, loan scheduling and time period of the car's availability.
The role of the smartphone is to share an encrypted unlock code that gives the customer access to the car. This is only possible when the smartphone is already within the Bluetooth range of the car. The car's push-button ignition will also be enabled.
The said unlock code is limited. CNET further reports that it is only active during the set time for which the car has been engaged. But users can actually ask to extend their loan time using the app. Toyota will be the one to manage this.
The Getaround pilot program will be the first to use the Smart Key Box. Its fate is still uncertain until January 17 during the program's launch in San Francisco. This is only limited to owners of Lexus and the new Prius.
Toyota's Venture In The Car-Sharing Market
Reuters had reported last week that a fund controlled by Toyota has invested $10 million to Getaround. According to The Verge, the said investment is an indication of Toyota's interest in the car-sharing market.
It allows the automaker to build a competitive atmosphere. Mercedes-Benz' Daimler has Car2Go. General Motors has its Maven car-sharing service. Seattle is the home turf of BMW's ReachNow. Furthermore, Tesla is also set to have its own car-sharing network.
Toyota can capitalize on the market's growing popularity.