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Turo Go will allow instant access to rental cars through its app

The Airbnb of cars is rolling out a new gadget that unlocks a car's doors, so you don't have to meet its owner to get the keys.

Turo Go app preview
The updated Turo app will make peer-to-peer car sharing even more seamless.

Turo offers an easy way for people to rent out their cars short-term -- think of it as Airbnb for cars. Now the tech company wants to make that process even simpler with Turo Go, which allows for "instant" car rentals through the app.

The idea is to make it even quicker for Turo users to find a nearby car and rent it immediately, with the app unlocking the car. Currently, Turo users must meet the car's owner for an in-person handover of the keys, so the new arrangement will speed up the process significantly. Turo says that's a response to feedback: "Consumers today want instant mobility at their fingertips," it says.

Turo says that 19 percent of available cars on the service already offer a 1-hour rental lead time, the quickest turnaround time the app offers. 15 percent of cars already have some sort of remote access functionality for renters.

The instant-rental functionality works along with a new in-car device that Turo will offer that lets owners lock, unlock and track their car remotely. (Zipcar has a similar system in its fleet of rental cars.) In addition, the device will let owners log the mileage covered by guests, as well as view data on fuel levels or even maintenance requests. In other words, owners can keep tabs on their vehicle without necessarily having to see it in person. Turo says this makes sense because many vehicle owners -- "hosts" in Turo's terminology -- are too busy to meet up with every renter.

Turo will begin offering the in-car device to its registered car owners this fall in select cities on a trial basis. Interested owners can sign up on the company's website now. Long-term, however, Turo wants to get that functionality built into new cars. Mercedes-Benz parent company Daimler, a Turo investor, is said to be developing remote Turo connectivity for new Mercedes cars. The goal is to make future vehicles "Turo-ready" from the day they're delivered to owners.


Turo CEO Andre Haddad.