The Apple CarKey. 📸 BMW
Only a few automakers are offering apps to go keyless – but not for long.
Car keys are becoming obsolete in some vehicles. But is going keyless the smart choice? How do you feel about that? Would you still carry your keys with you, or trust the smarts in your smart phone?
The benefits are huge. Open an app, click it within a short distance of your car and you can unlock it, start it and drive away. You can also ‘hand off’ the key to someone else who has the app. Imagine swapping cars at the train station, giving your baby sitter the key or revoking your teen’s key when he stays out too late!
Is This A Safe Choice?
Key fobs can be a pain to keep track of; they fall to the bottom of your bag, drivers forget and leave them in their cars, and they can be hard to find a junk drawer. But with the ability to use your smart phone, which you are more likely not to forget, you can leave your key fob in the junk drawer. And with other types of keys –house keys, hotel room keys, office keys– going away altogether, it’ll have company.
But is a phone – or a smart watch – a safe choice for a car key? What if it’s stolen, lost, hacked or the battery dies? Well, they’ve thought about that, too. Digital keys can easily be revoked, you can cancel it if your phone is lost or stolen and because it uses NFC, or near-field communications technology, it will work even after your phone’s battery dies; it can draw on the power reserve for up to 5 hours after the battery is depleted.
From there, drivers will be able to start, drive and lock the car using the app. Some phones need to be stowed in the car’s wireless charger in order to allow all these functions; in other cars with digital key apps it just needs to be in the car.
Apple CarKey Joins the Lineup of Digital Keys offered by BMW, Hyundai, Lincoln and Tesla
This week Apple announced it is adding a digital key function called CarKey to its iOS phone and watch operating system. It’ll be part of Apple Wallet, so once an owner is in a compatible car it can be used without downloading a separate app. Oh, and Apple Watch fans? This digital key will work on the watch, too.
Apple joins BMW – with which it has partnered to be the first brand to adapt the CarKey capability– Lincoln and Hyundai in the digital key space. Apple users need to have the most recent iOS system update to use the CarKey, and those who do will be able to use it in the new BMW 5 Series when it hits dealers next month. At Apple’s annual developers conference the company touted the BMW relationship, saying that CarKey will be available in 45 countries for the BMW 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, X5, X6, X7, X5M, X6M, and Z4 models manufactured after July 1st, 2020. Compatible iPhone models include the iPhone XR, iPhone XS or newer, and the Apple Watch Series 5 or newer. The CarKey will be able to lock, unlock, start the car and allow it to be driven as long as the phone is stowed on the car’s wireless charge pad.
BMW is just the start, however. Apple plans to make the technology available in any car with NFC capability, so expect this to be a popular feature on most cars soon.
Tesla Pioneered the Digital Key
Like many things, Tesla was one of the first to offer a digital phone key integrated into its app. Owners can unlock the car, start it, set the temperature and more because the app is integrated into the car’s software.
My friends AJ and Laura, who are now on their 4th Tesla, love the keyless option. “My Tesla operates with my cell phone. We don’t have keys and I remote control it via my phone to go park it or come get me,” he said.
Hyundai’s Digital Key
Hyundai introduced a Digital Key option in the new Sonata; it allows a driver to unlock and start the vehicle with most smartphones. The system can be programed for up to 4 phones. It also uses NFC technology to detect whether the “approved” phone is close to the vehicle’s door. As with Apple CarKey, after unlocking the vehicle, a driver can start the engine by placing the smartphone on the wireless charging pad in the center console and pressing the engine Start/Stop button, and from there can drive the car, too.
Lincoln’s Phone-As-a-Key Option
Lincoln introduced this feature in the new Aviator and Corsair and it will no doubt roll out to all their models soon. The “Phone As A Key” works from Lincoln Way app on a smartphone. Drivers can lock and unlock the doors, remote start the car and drive the vehicle. The Lincoln Way app also controls the lift gate, a convenient feature.
While not quite as sophisticated, my smart phone has come in handy with OnStar; I used it to open my car when I accidentally locked my keys inside. But how nice would it be to not have to worry about locking your keys in the car!