Car sharing via a smartphone app
Toyota and Getaround to launch
a pilot program in San Francisco

With the growing popularity of car-sharing services in an increasing number of countries, Toyota Motor Corporation announced last Monday plans to establish a Mobility Services Platform (MSPF), in collaboration with specialized service providers in the sector.

Toyota Mobility Services Platform (MSPF) and SKB drawings
Complementarity between different technologies, industry sectors, products and services.

Describing the complementarity between the new platform and each of the Toyota Smart Center (TSC), the Toyota Big Data Center, and financial services, the president of Toyota’s – U.S.-based – Connected Company, Shigeki Tomoyama, said: “As a mobility service platform provider, we (want from this collaboration) to offer safer and more convenient mobility to our customers”.

From this perspective, Toyota has recently developed individual business functions, such as vehicle management systems and leasing programs to serve mobility service providers. Developed and operated by Toyota Connected Inc., the MSPF will effectively aggregate these functions, allowing the mobility service providers to chose from MSPF the most appropriate services for their own clients/users.

Toyota Smart Key Box (SKB) role within the MSPF car-sharing platform, with the smartphone app, the car sharing provider, up the the access to start the engine.

One of the MSPF-based car-sharing tools will be Toyota's Smart Key Box (SKB) which is placed in the vehicle by its owner, without any special modification. This SKB allows the car-sharing user to lock / unlock doors and start the engine via an application on his / her smartphone, which receives a unique code to access the SKB device.

Toyota's Smart Key Box (SKB) in the vehicle.
Toyota's Smart Key Box is placed in the vehicle by its owner, without modifications.

As soon as the smartphone gets within the contact perimeter, the unique codes are authenticated with the SKB of the vehicle through Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) communications. The user operates the key with the smartphone, like any other regular smart key operation.

Moreover, the reservation time and period for the user to access the SKB is set and managed according to the vehicle reservation details at the TSC (Toyota Smart Center ), without any need for physical keys nor any dedicated communication device connected with the Controller Area Network (CAN) of the vehicle.

As far as implementation is concerned, Toyota will conduct in San Francisco, Calif., from January 2017, a pilot program with U.S. car-sharing company, Getaround, to explore the SKB performance in car sharing, in collaboration with the Mirai Creation Investment Limited Partnership (MCILP), which provided strategic investment to Getaround in October (Toyota participates in the MCILP's fund).

To increase both, the number of vehicles available for sharing and attract new clients to utilize and adopt such mobility services, Toyota Financial Services Corporation will develop a new financial product where the lessee can use the income generated from car-sharing to pay for leasing charges. Based on the results, Toyota will consider using the MSPF for other mobility services in Japan, like unmanned rent-a-car businesses.

Diagram of the many layers and players in the car-sharing business environment
Large potential for the car-sharing business environment on a global scale.

Sam Zaid, Getaround’s founder and CEO said: “Our goal at Getaround has always been to empower people to car-share everywhere. 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."