Smartphones To Work As Car Keys

Handsfree Smartphone - MAT Foundry

All too many of us are these days glued to our handheld devices and mobile phones in particular. Well, there will soon be another reason to keep yours close-by. That’s because an elite group of technological giants have joined forces to create digital keys, the kind designed to make the unlocking of cars that bit easier.

Though still a work in progress, the smartphone turned car key concept is one being developed by the Car Connectivity Consortium no less. An exclusive club, members include Volkswagen, BMW, Hyundai, Panasonic as well as LG. And – in a move that underlines the scale of the operation – long-term rivals Apple and Samsung. Yes, they really have joined forces.

The expectation is drivers will be able to download an all-encompassing app, one allowing for the unlocking, locking and starting of their vehicle. Similar technology already exists but standardisation remains elusive – with make of car and phone still restrictive.

On release the benefits will prove plentiful.

Firstly, digital keys can be sent between people remotely, meaning those previously left high and dry can still get around. Indeed the person in possession of the master set can quickly fire over a second, electronic version, thus granting access. Just think of the arguments that will be avoided!

In more serious circumstances, such as an emergency, you will be spared the hassle of hunting keys and instead be on route to wherever it is you need to be quickly.

Elsewhere the likes of valet parking can be made simpler, with temporary control afforded to those handling that procedure for you.

And fear not those prone to a low battery, a physical copy is also planned as part of what has been billed Digital Key Release 1.0. Portable chargers might be worth exploring if that sounds like you though…

Smartphone - MAT Foundry

So how has similar technology fared in recent times? Unsurprisingly for a man hellbent on sending cars into space, Elon Musk’s Tesla have led the way. To date their Model S, Model X and Model 3 editions have proven a relative hit.

Similar success has been realised by Land Rover, who went to the lengths of producing a full blown activity key bracelet to coincide with the launch of their latest Discovery vehicle.

Finally Volvo looked to follow suit in 2016, trialling digital keys as part of their wider Sunfleet car sharing scheme. A hit in its native Sweden, the manufacturer plan to expand the operation globally in the near future.

Still though uniformity eludes, yet production cars are edging ever closer to debuting the technology.

So progressive was Digital Key Release 1.0 that a second incarnation is already upon us. And it is 2.0 which is expected to be released before the end of the decade, with Audi and General Motors now bolstering man and brain power alike.

Excitingly, many commentators anticipate a much quicker unveiling, earmarking spring 2019 as a date for the diary. For Volkswagen’s part, they will only commit to ‘soon’… publicly anyway.

There remain – naturally – a handful of reservations. Sadly keyless entry systems previously brought to market have been prone to abuse. Indeed signals are known to have been intercepted, facilitating hacking and car theft.

Those behind this all-in-one solution however have been quick to allay similar fears. Things will be different, they insist, due to the technology itself.

Unlike previous devices this smartphone key will call upon short range signals which are far harder to overwrite. The success of contactless payments and Oyster cards, which adopt the same technology, justify such confidence.

Longer-term the potential is seemingly limitless. Already commentators are speculating when checks and balances will come hand-in-hand with any electronic keys, preventing those with previous driving offences reaching certain top speeds for instance. Similarly, initial restrictions could be imposed on newly qualified drivers, until they garner a certain level of experience anyhow.

Conjecture is not wholly surprising given the originality of scalable tech such as this. For the time being however we have only a specification. It will not be that way for long.



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