In 2017, Tesla introduced its digital key for the Tesla Model 3. Since then, other auto companies have jumped on board. Linked to an Apple, Samsung or Google smartphone, this digital key allows car owners to lock, unlock and sometimes start their vehicles simply by having a smartphone to hand.
Today, dozens of car models make a digital key available as a standard or upgraded feature.
What is a digital key?
A digital car key gives drivers the ability to lock and unlock their car from their smartphone. In some cases, the phone acts as a fully functioning key, meaning you can start and turn off the engine using just your phone if you can’t find your physical key fob. It’s as simple as downloading the car manufacturer’s app and holding the phone to the car to close and open it. This new technology can be managed in the ‘wallet’ systems of Apple, Samsung and Google smartphones.
The advantage of a digital key is that it comes in handy if you lose your physical key. Instead of searching your entire house, all you need is your smartphone to make your commute. Many newer cars, such as the Kia Niro, allow drivers to use this feature. In fact, this technology is standard on many vehicles, including the Lincoln Navigator.
This digital key technology is gaining popularity, but is still not offered as standard on many vehicles. If you want it, it can cost you a monthly or annual fee.
How does a digital key work?
Digital keys are easy to use. You simply download the car manufacturer’s app on your phone and connect it via Bluetooth. Once you’ve installed the app, hold your phone to the door of your car and your car will be locked or unlocked for you.
However, technology has been constantly improving since digital keys first appeared on the scene. As a result, on some cars it is not necessary to hold the phone directly on the vehicle. Instead, it will unlock for you if you are just near the car. With this feature, you don’t have to take your phone out of your pocket or bag.
Digital key smartphone technology is available on Apple, Samsung and Google phones, depending on the make of your car. If you have additional Apple devices, including an Apple Watch, you can also use them to unlock your vehicle.
Some cars, including the Honda Passport, allow you to lock and unlock your vehicle with the digital key, but you can also use it to start your vehicle remotely, which can be useful on a hot or cold day to enter the cab. cooling or heating before entering.
For convenience, some automakers, such as Toyota, claim that firmware in their vehicles helps keep digital keys safe and linked to an identifiable device.
Advantages of a digital key
We’ve all been there: you’re getting ready to leave the house and suddenly can’t find your keys. The good news is that losing your keys is much more common than losing your phone, which is where digital keys come into play. If you can’t find your keys, your phone can get the job done until you find them. This is even more convenient when your digital key app can also start your vehicle.
Just being near your vehicle with your smartphone to hand allows you to unlock and lock it when you get out of the car. As this feature applies to newer cars, no doubt the vehicle will come with a push start so that various applications can start the car as well. While the digital key is something you might overlook as a useful feature, you’ll love having it one day when you need it.
As a bonus, if you have a car that several people use, some vehicles like the Mercedes GLE allow you to hand over your digital key access to friends, family, babysitters or whoever you want to grant access to from within the app.
Are digital keys secure?
According to the Automotive Connectivity Consortium, a group of automakers and technology experts developing global standards and solutions for smartphone and vehicle connectivity, mobile devices create and store digital keys in secure places. The consortium says they recently upgraded security and added a new layer of security for a vehicle’s digital key using UWB or ultra-wideband technology.
The consortium says the UWB technology better protects vehicles against potential threats. Car manufacturers love BMW uses UWB technology for its “Digital Key Plus”, which explains how it prevents relay attacks or interception of digital information.
However, not every vehicle uses UWB technology. According to slashgear, any “potential security flaw can be solved if your digital car key supports UWB, BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy and NFC (near-field communication)) at the same time.”
Car brands that offer digital keys
The list of automakers offering digital keys on US models continues to grow. The list below is subject to change, but these are the brands they offer.
- †land rover
*Available on every model from 2020