Technology

This Digital Key Tech Is Going To Replace Your Car Keys With Phones

Digital Key To Control Car With iPhone
Free-Photos / Pixabay

You will soon be able to unlock your car and start the engine using your smartphone. The Car Connectivity Consortium (CCC) has announced the Digital Key Release 1.0 specification. The CCC counts Apple, Samsung, Hyundai, Volkswagen, BMW, Audi, Qualcomm, LG Display, and Panasonic among its members. The Digital Key technology is a standardized solution that will allow you to securely download a digital vehicle key on your phone.

How will the digital key work?

The CCC said its new Digital Key Release 1.0 specification will be available to all members of the group. Drivers will be able to unlock their vehicles and control other systems such as the engine via NFC-enabled devices. The CCC aims to develop mobile device-to-vehicle connectivity solutions. With the new Digital Key Release 1.0 specification, the consortium aims to bring automakers and smartphone vendors together to build an interoperable digital key standard.

The new standard will not only let you unlock your car and start the engine, but also share access to the vehicle with others using smartphones. Automakers such as Audi have already implemented a similar technology in their cars. But the market remains fragmented. There needs to be a single unifying standard to improve user experience, and ensure that vendors have the latest technologies and security protocols.

The new standard will allow automakers to transfer the digital key to a smartphone using the Trusted Service Manager system that relies on NFC. Besides taking car keys out of the equation, the technology will also be useful in car rentals and car sharing. The use of internal secure elements and near-field communication (NFC) chips will ensure data security. Automobile manufacturers will be responsible for the interfaces between their backends and the car.

The CCC added that it had already started working on the Digital Key Release 2.0 specification. The Release 2.0  will bring a standardized authentication protocol between the phone and the vehicle to ensure interoperability between smartphones and vehicles from different vendors. The second-generation technology is on track to be completed by the first-quarter of 2019.

It will be useful in the age of autonomous driving

The Digital Key will be particularly useful to companies working on the autonomous driving technology such as Apple, Waymo, Tesla, Uber, and others. Though Apple’s secret Project Titan has suffered many setbacks in the last few years, the company seems to keep pushing in the self-driving area. Apple recently hired Jaime Waydo, an autonomous vehicle veteran who has worked at Google’s Waymo. She has also worked at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory for over a decade, where she was instrumental in developing a Mars rover.

Since securing the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)’s approval in April last year, Apple has expanded its fleet of self-driving vehicles to 45. The company also has 83 certified human safety drivers behind the wheel. The human safety drivers are supposed to take over the control upon sensing any signs of trouble while testing the vehicles on public roads. Apple’s autonomous driving system will also have the ability to recognize the driver’s “intent.”

It is unclear whether Apple will release a full-fledged self-driving car or license its autonomous driving technology to other automakers. Apple might also enter the ride-hailing market in the long-term, likely in partnership with third parties. The company recently signed an agreement with Volkswagen to use the T6 Transporter vans to shuttle between its campuses. Even the shuttles will have a backup driver behind the wheel.