(SEATTLE. WASHINGTON): While travel and vacation were halted in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, car sharing has remained relevant with commuters seeking alternatives to public transportation. However, car sharing users, both vehicle owners and renters, continue to face hurdles that prevent a smooth and safe rental experience.
First and foremost, there’s the issue of the vehicle’s key. Currently, vehicle owners’ only two methods of key handoff are to meet renters in-person or to stow away the key somewhere on the outside of the vehicle. The former presents social distancing concerns and the latter subjects the vehicle to threats of theft and key tampering. Additionally, “smash-and-grab” break-ins continue to plague vehicles parked in public places for extended periods of time awaiting rental pickup. Vehicle owners that monetize their vehicles are faced with the dilemma of choosing between convenience and safety.
Firstech, the Seattle-based maker of the DroneMobile remote car starter app, has announced that its April 2021 app update will offer vehicle owners and renters both safety and convenience with new car sharing and key management capabilities.
The upcoming DroneMobile app update will enable the use of the company’s patented KL1 KeyLocker hardware. KeyLocker is an LTE-enabled key management and storage system that makes key handoff as easy as sending an invite to a renter’s email. Upon acceptance of the invitation, renters can instantly see the vehicle’s parking spot and start their trip using only their smartphone. Meanwhile, vehicle owners receive alerts notifying them of successful pickup and drop-off. (During the rental, vehicle owners cannot track or control the vehicle without ending the renter’s access.)
KeyLocker fits into most vehicle compartments and has a sliding door mechanism for safely storing any type of vehicle key. While a vehicle’s key is stored in a KeyLocker, the system activates anti-tampering security sensors around KeyLocker and the outside of the vehicle. These sensors can only be disarmed using the DroneMobile app, which works over LTE from unlimited range. If a vehicle utilizes a “smart” key with push-to-start capabilities, KeyLocker can enable and disable the detection of that key so that it does not need to be removed throughout the duration of the rental. In this case, drivers would use their smartphone as the key for driving the vehicle.
Firstech’s KeyLocker also includes a touchpad as backup in the event of poor cellular coverage or dead smartphone battery.
Firstech describes the DroneMobile app update as “enabling safer and easier car sharing for everyone.” While the DroneMobile app won’t offer a marketplace to reserve car shares, the company hopes to fill a void for vehicle owners that scale their car sharing operations on other platforms.
In order to enjoy DroneMobile car sharing, vehicle owners should visit an Authorized DroneMobile dealer to have their KeyLocker and LTE hardware installed. Parts and pricing may vary by vehicle. To find a dealer near you, please visit www.dronemobile.com/find-a-dealer. All car sharing and key management features will be included for all DroneMobile Premium subscribers, with plans as low as $5.99/month.