Car keys could soon go the way of the paper calendar and stand-alone alarm clock — becoming unnecessary thanks to smartphones.
Volvo Cars recently announced that it “plans to become the world’s first car manufacturer to offer cars without keys.”
The Sweden-based company reports that it will pilot a smartphone app that could take the place of a car key this spring and equip a limited number of cars with this technology next year.
Volvo is unveiling the technology this week at Mobile World Congress 2016 in Barcelona.
While the auto manufacturer would still offer physical keys for customers who prefer them, Volvo’s app would enable a Bluetooth-based digital key on customers’ mobile phones to do everything a physical key does, like locking or unlocking doors or starting the engine.
Customers could also receive more than one digital key on the app so they could share cars.
Henrik Green, vice president of product strategy and vehicle line management at Volvo Cars, says in a news release:
“Our innovative digital key technology has the potential to completely change how a Volvo can be accessed and shared. Instead of sitting idle in a parking lot the entire day, cars could be used more often and efficiently by whoever the owner wishes.”
Customers could potentially also book and pay for a rental car, have the digital car key delivered to their phone instantaneously, and then locate the rental car via GPS — eliminating the need to stand in line at car rental desks.
While Volvo plans to be the first car manufacturer to offer cars without keys, Fortune magazine reports it’s not the first company to offer smartphone apps that can control certain aspects of cars, such as unlocking or remotely starting a vehicle.
For example, Fortune describes the new Chevrolet Bolt EV as follows:
There’s a low-energy Bluetooth system that detects the driver’s smartphone as he or she approaches the car. The car is also equipped with a new app called MyChevrolet Mobile that lets the driver see the vehicle charge status, set the cabin temperature, and remotely start the car. Using the app, the driver could leave the keys locked inside the car and send someone an encrypted key so that person could use his or her own smartphone to unlock the car.
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