New agreement could see smartphones replace car keys

By Tom Wiltshire
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New agreement could see smartphones replace car keys

Allowing drivers to replace their keys with smart devices will require ‘the highest state-of-the-art security’

A group of car manufacturers and technology giants have formed a consortium which aims to create a standard system allowing cars to be operated via a smartphone rather than a key.

Manufacturers including Volkswagen, General Motors, Honda, Toyota and BMW have joined forces with the likes of Apple, Samsung, Bosch, Panasonic and LG to form the Car Connectivity Consortium (CCC). The group has now announced the new ‘Digital Key Release 1.0’ specification – a standard which sets out a system for locking, unlocking and starting a car with a compatible smart device.

The mixture of cars and smartphones is limited at the moment. Many companies, such as Volvo, provide companion smartphone apps which can be used to track and monitor cars, but so far only Tesla allows owners to ditch the key altogether and access their Model S, 3 or X with their mobile.

The CCC’s new protocol aims to standardise smartphone operation with cars, assuring ‘the highest state-of-the-art security level for vehicle access.

The protocol is based around Near-Field Communication (NFC) the same technology that powers payment apps such as Apple Pay and Android Wallet. It’s more secure than the radio frequency chips in current keyless entry systems or contactless payment cards, as it operates over a shorter range and cannot easily be ‘boosted’ by rogue car thieves.

A statement from Volkswagen said: “VW has supported and contributed to the Digital Key standardisation activity of CCC from the first day. We’re excited to see the fast specification development and now the release of version 1.”

The Consortium is now hard at work on version 2.0, which is targeted for release in the first quarter of 2019. It will expand version 1 to a wider array of smart devices and vehicles.