Toyota Finance New Zealand has invested in car sharing software company Mindkin, as part of its move to become a "mobility" company.
Wellington-based Mindkin is a small start-up whose core technology product, Hourfleet, allows more efficient sharing of pool cars with a simplified booking service and vehicle access.
Toyota New Zealand CEO and managing director Alistair Davis said: "[We're] helping them with their technology development with an equity involvement as a result of our support."
The technology, which is still in its testing stages, will allow users, via an app on their phone, easier access to available cars in requested locations, as well as the ability to unlock and start vehicles without a key.
"The way it works from a technological sense is that you have an app on your phone and that tells you the location and availability of cars, and then you walk up to the car, the car automatically unlocks and will automatically start," Davis said.
Car sharing is one of a number of growing mobility services – including ride hailing (such as Uber), ride sharing, carpooling and car rental – that is helping make travel more convenient, efficient and flexible.
"Our play is not to pick the winner of the business model, our play is to develop software that works for all those kind of things," Davis said.
Toyota Financial Services managing director Brent Knight said the investment in Mindkin was a small part of a worldwide mobility evolution as Toyota New Zealand looked to expand beyond financing vehicles.
"Globally, rapid urbanisation, pollution and congestion have prompted a wave of innovation in transport and new mobility services," Knight said.
"Space on roads and in carparks is becoming scarce and expensive, and current inefficient transport options carry high costs."
Knight said that these types of innovative mobility services could reduce car ownership for people who don't use a private vehicle as their main mode of transport.
Toyota would not disclose the exact amount of the investment but confirmed it was in the "hundreds of thousands of dollars".