Using Smartcar’s location and lock/unlock APIs, Turo built a contactless car sharing feature that boosted trips and increased customer satisfaction.
Turo is a peer-to-peer car sharing marketplace. It allows guests to book cars from a community of local hosts in over 5,000 cities across the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Founded in 2010, the company is on a mission to put the worlds’ 1.5 billion cars to better use. Turo accomplishes this mission by letting guests choose from a unique selection of nearby cars, while hosts earn extra money to offset the costs of car ownership.
Previously, Turo hosts spent a lot of their time meeting guests to exchange car keys before and after each trip. This was especially problematic for the 36% of hosts who listed more than one car on the Turo platform. These hosts often have multiple trips booked on a given day, making it challenging to coordinate in-person check-in and check-out times with every guest.
“Imagine you have several trips starting and ending every day. Or you have a guest arriving late from an international flight. Or you are out of town during the start or end of a trip,” said Senior Product Manager Liz Nunley. “All these cases require a lot of effort from our hosts to make sure they can physically meet their guests. It can be a logistical nightmare.”
Undoubtedly, hosts needed a way to support trips with more flexibility and ease. Nunley and her team started exploring solutions that would let guests access cars on their own without a host present for check-in and check-out.
Turo considered various solutions, including storing car keys in physical lockboxes and integrating directly with every car manufacturer’s APIs. Then they discovered Smartcar.
“Smartcar presented the best opportunity to streamline our development effort and accelerate time-to-market by unlocking access to millions of cars,” Nunley said. “We loved the idea of a single set of APIs and a unified integration that would give our customers access to a huge variety of vehicles.”
Turo decided to use Smartcar’s APIs for its new contactless car sharing feature, Turo Go. Turo Go spares hosts from in-person meetings by allowing guests to locate and unlock cars directly from the Turo app.
Powered by the Smartcar platform, hosts can link their cars to Turo Go with just four clicks directly from the Turo app. Turo then uses Smartcar’s location and lock/unlock APIs to share the vehicle’s location and digital key with guests for each booked trip.
In a 2020 survey of hosts with at least one Turo Go-enabled vehicle, hosts shared that Turo Go allowed them to share their cars more easily and also saved them time. According to a 2020 study conducted by Turo’s internal research team, more than 90% of Turo hosts surveyed wanted all of their vehicles to be Turo Go-enabled. Turo also found in that same study that among hosts who opted into Turo Go, 34% agreed that they listed more cars on the platform because of it.
“Turo Go has been a great tool for hosts that are trying to find ways to cost-efficiently streamline their business,” Nunley said. “Undoubtedly, Smartcar has made a significant impact on our host experience.”
While Turo Go has clearly benefited hosts, it has also been a big win for guests. Particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, guests have valued contactless car sharing not only as a convenient nice-to-have but as a safe way to share cars.
“What was challenging but also incredibly rewarding about working with Smartcar was that we were changing real-world behavior,” Nunley said. “We were changing the way that someone accessed a car!”
The Turo team also uses Smartcar’s APIs for other vehicle data to alleviate further challenges for Turo hosts.
For example, Turo automatically checks a car’s fuel tank level and mileage during check-in. Nunley’s team plans to expand this feature to automatically calculate miles driven on a trip, send notifications when a guest needs to fill up on gas, and remove some of the manual documentation steps that are currently necessary during check-in and check-out. In the near future, Nunley can even imagine partnering with mobile cleaning solutions to let hosts schedule a cleaning before and after each trip.
“Now you’re starting to think of an even more efficient, scalable approach to hosting,” Nunley said.