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Toyota to test car-sharing system where you start car with smartphone

The logo of Japanese car manufacturer Toyota is

The logo of Japanese car manufacturer Toyota is displayed behind members of the media Toyota at the Paris Auto Show in Paris, France, Thursday, Sept. 29, 2016. Photo Credit: AP

DETROIT - Toyota will test a new car-sharing system next year that lets users unlock doors and start cars with their smartphones.

The Smart Key Box system eliminates the need for a physical key. Toyota will test the system in San Francisco with the Getaround car-sharing service starting in January. A Toyota investment fund put money into Getaround this month.

Toyota says a user's phone will get codes to access the smart key box inside car-sharing vehicles. When the phone gets close to the vehicle, the codes are verified through the Bluetooth system.

If the experiment is successful, Toyota may use the system in Japan for an unmanned car rental business.

Keyless car-sharing is not totally new. General Motors' Maven car-sharing system uses a mobile app to unlock cars and allow them to be started with the push-button ignition. Maven is in nine U.S. cities at present. The more pervasive ZipCar sharing service lets users access cars with a card, then use keys that are inside.

Toyota also is developing a system that lets an owner send car-sharing income to Toyota Financial Services to make lease payments.

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