Drivers may soon be able to lock and unlock car doors and start vehicle engines using their smartphone and a Smart Key Box (SKB) unveiled by Toyota that uses Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). The device is set to be piloted with US-based car-sharing company Getaround in January 2017.
The SKB forms part of a new Mobility Services Platform (MSPF) that has been established by Toyota to “collaborate with various service providers, as well as telematics insurance” to support a range of mobility services including car sharing, allowing drivers to instantly access codes to unlock doors directly through a mobile app.
“To enhance MSPF-based car sharing, Toyota developed the SKB that can be placed in a vehicle without modification,” the car manufacturer says. “Car-sharing users can lock and unlock doors and start the engine with their smartphone, thus providing a safer and more secure way of lending and renting cars.
“A smartphone application will receive codes to access the SKB device, which the assigned vehicle owner has placed in the vehicle. When the smartphone is brought near the vehicle, the codes are authenticated with the SKB through BLE communications and the user can operate the key with the smartphone.
“The time and period when the user can access the SKB is set and managed by the TSC (Toyota Smart Center), based on the vehicle reservation.”
“The pilot program will start in January 2017 in San Francisco,” Toyota adds. “During the pilot program, Toyota and Getaround will explore the benefits and convenience of the SKB in car sharing.
“Based on the exploration results, Toyota will consider using the MSPF for other mobility services in Japan, like unmanned rent-a-car businesses.”
“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,” says Shigeki Tomoyama, president of Toyota’s in-house connected company.
“Integrating our experience and purpose-built car-sharing technology with Toyota’s activities across mobility services opens up new opportunities to Toyota customers and the rapidly growing car-sharing market,” adds Getaround CEO and founder Sam Zaid.