Earlier this year, car-sharing startup Getaround won a TechCrunch Disrupt award for its CarKit technology, which makes it easy for car owners to rent out their cars to other members without requiring a physical key swap. But judges may have missed a flaw in the technology. A Forbes article points out that Getaround's system is a thief's dream because it provides a list of vehicles with their keys stashed somewhere in the car.
To find out if that's true, I spoke with Getaround's CEO, Sam Zaid. Getaround's CarKit is a device that enables borrowers to unlock a rental vehicle's door using an iPhone app when they have a valid reservation. Once inside the car, information in the reservation tells the renter where the car key is hidden in the vehicle. Zaid said that the CarKit and app are capable of immobilizing the vehicle, which makes it impossible to start the car unless there is a reservation. However, since the vehicle is also used by the driver, many owners opt not to use the immobilization feature because they would have to make a reservation to use their own car.
In that sense, the vehicle is more vulnerable to theft because a car thief knows where a vehicle is parked and, if he or she has rented before or knows someone who has, knows the location of the key. But Zaid said that many of its vehicles have the additional security of garages, and may be used by a few families to share a vehicle. And if Getaround members are worried about leaving keys in their cars, they can always switch to physical key swaps, which are safer, but a lot less convenient.