Nearly every automaker has a connected-car element that allows owners to manipulate the car from afar. Smartcar created software that works across these borders, and its latest partnership could make renting some other person's car a little easier.
Turo, a peer-to-peer car sharing startup, announced on Monday that it has partnered with Smartcar to put its system to use as part of the rental process. Normally, when renting somebody else's car on Turo, that person usually needs to be around to hand over the key. Instead of that, Smartcar's system uses renters' phones to wirelessly locate, lock and unlock cars without the need for the "hosts," as Turo calls them, to be present.
Here's how it works. Hosts who have eligible vehicles will be notified, and using Smartcar's backend software, they can connect their vehicle account with their Turo account. Once that happens, renters can use their own phone to find and unlock the vehicle. Most OEMs' connected-car systems don't let phones work as keys, though, and that's the case here -- the keys can be found inside the vehicle after unlocking, and that's where to leave 'em when the rental term ends.
It's a huge boon for busy hosts. Now, they won't need to move their schedules around to accommodate renters, allowing them to maintain an additional revenue stream with less potential annoyance. Some similar systems require hardware in the car, but not this one -- it's all done over the air, no OBD-II dongles or anything of that sort.
As with many other fledgling partnerships, this one will start small. Turo will offer its Smartcar system in California and New Jersey to start, with the intention of rolling it out to the entire country later in 2019.
Originally published May 6, 12:09 p.m. PT.
Update, 12:46 p.m.: Added information regarding how the traditional car key factors into this scheme.