Volvo will unveil plans to sell cars without keys at the 2016 Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. The technology uses Bluetooth and the Volvo app in a mobile phone to store a digital key. The digital key can then be used just like a traditional key to lock and unlock the doors, the trunk, and start the car. This makes the Swedish automotive company the first to market cars with this technology.
The digital key can be shared with other people even when they are not in close proximity. Martin Rosenqvist, Volvo’s director of new cars mentioned:
I could lend you a car key digitally even though I’m a thousand miles away, as long as you have the app and verify who you are.
The technology prepares a whole new streamlined way of sharing and renting cars. No longer do you have to pick up a physical key to access the car. Just locate it on your phone via GPS, request the digital key, and be on your way.
Mr Rosenqvist spoke with International Business Times UK and talked about the security and reliability of introducing a system to something that we already use everyday.
We will not bring anything to the market unless we feel it is totally safe and secure. Volvo is all about safety and it’s the same when it comes to security levels.
The phone and car communicate via Bluetooth, then we have added security layers in the car so that we don’t need to rely solely on the Bluetooth of the phone. So if someone ‘listens’ in to the Bluetooth of the phone, that won’t be enough to get into the car and start it.
As far as the phone’s battery is concerned
The battery issue is valid today as well. You can have your boarding pass in your phone and [because of this] we see an increasing amount of recharging stations [at airports] and increased battery power. If you need battery power, then we believe people will make sure they have it.
There are other issues that comes with associating the key to the phone. Similar to phone cases/wallets that allow you to store you ID and credit cards, when you lose your phone you will lose everything. When the digital car key resides within your phone you also risk losing access to your car.
Volvo agrees with this sentiment but mentions that it is safer to lose your phone containing your digital key rather than losing a traditional physical car key. The digital key can be encrypted and protected via traditional means such as the phone’s pin/biometric methods, whereas a physical car key cannot.
The proof of concept is being carried out in 2016 in a rental car sharing firm Sunfleet, based in Gothenburg airport in Sweden. If successful, Volvo will make the technology available in consumer models by 2017.