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Toyota teams up with Getaround to trial keyless car-sharing service

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Issei Kato/Reuters/File

(Read caption) An employee of Toyota Motor Corporation using a smartphone demonstrates a software which will enable drivers to access remote data services and data communication module during a press briefing on Toyota's connected strategy in Tokyo, Japan November 1, 2016. REUTERS/Issei Kato

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Many within the industry are predicting a future where car sharing becomes more popular than actual ownership. Though this represents a threat to automakers, rather than ignore the trend most are looking at ways to profit from it. One strategy for automakers is launching their own car-sharing service.

Toyota is the latest to test the waters with car sharing. It’s teaming up with American car-sharing service Getaround and will run a pilot program in San Francisco starting in January, 2017.

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Vehicles taking part in the program will feature a device known as the Smart Key Box (SKB), which has been developed by Toyota and is placed in a vehicle without modification. It enables users to lock and unlock the doors and start the engine using a smartphone.

After booking a vehicle, a user’s smartphone will receive codes to access its SKB. When the smartphone is brought near the vehicle, the codes are authenticated wirelessly with the SKB, and the user can operate the ignition with the smartphone, similar to regular smart key operation.

The SKB is just one of Toyota’s new mobility solutions the automaker is developing as part of its wide-ranging Mobility Services Platform (MSPF). Other solutions being investigated include ride-sharing and financial services where income generated from car- or ride-sharing can be used for lease payments.