Skip to main content

Using your phone to unlock your car is now one step closer to reality

Lincoln Aviator Phone as a Key
Image used with permission by copyright holder

A keyless future is coming closer to fruition now that the Car Connectivity Consortium (CCC) has published the Digital Key Release 1.0 Specification. The document offers a peek at how tech companies could standardize the use of smartphones to both lock and unlock any car, as well as start its engine and share access to the vehicle. The CCC, whose members include both Apple and Samsung, is looking to leverage technologies like Bluetooth and NFC in order to bring the new standard to life.

In particular, this first stab at a solution offers a secure way for customers to “download” a digital key straight to their mobile device. It would then utilize NFC connections to actually get into and start the car. The technology is also said to use a “Trusted Security Manager” system in order to add some extra protection to the digital keys on your smartphone. After all, if your phone could unlock your car, you’d be losing a whole lot more than your contacts and photos if it were misplaced or stolen.

In addition to Apple and Samsung, the CCC also boasts a number of big name car companies among its ranks, including Audi, BMW, General Motors, Hyundai, and Volkswagen. So if this specification were to be implemented, it would be likely that a large proportion of the cars on the road would soon have access to this smartphone entry system. Indeed, a number of car companies have already pledged  that upcoming models of their automobiles will depend upon smartphones rather than physical keys, including Audi, Lincoln, Mercedes-Benz, Tesla, and Volvo.

“By standardizing a Digital Key solution that complies with our security standards we lay the building blocks for innovative services on a broad basis,” said Ulf Warschat, head of Body Electronics at Audi.

The CCC is now hard at work on Digital Key 2.0, which is slated to be released in 2019. It should offer a “standardized authentication protocol” for phones and cars, and ensure that various cars and smartphones are all compatible with one another.

As Alexander Maier, a BMW executive noted, “Leveraging all benefits of Release 2.0 will enable a scalable solution, interoperable with all smart devices and vehicles delivering a superior user experience to our customers.”

Editors' Recommendations

Lulu Chang
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Fascinated by the effects of technology on human interaction, Lulu believes that if her parents can use your new app…
I’ve never used a folding phone like this one before
Honor Magic V2 back half folded.

Honor took its sweet time to bring the Magic V2 out of China – six months, to be precise. Given the amazing hardware, it’s been a long wait.

I’ve had a test unit since July 2023, which didn’t have the software and cameras ready until earlier this month. After using it as my primary device for a few weeks, I can confidently say that the Honor Magic V2 is the most comfortable foldable phone I’ve used to date.
Perfectly bridging the gap between a regular and foldable phone
Galaxy S24 Ultra (left), Honor Magic V2, and OnePlus Open Prakhar Khanna / Digital Trends

Read more
Jeep joins the EV party with the 600-horsepower Wagoneer S
Front view of a 2024 Jeep Wagoneer S driving on a city street.

After getting things rolling with plug-in hybrids, Jeeps’ electrification plans are picking up speed. Scheduled to reach dealerships this fall, the 2024 Jeep Wagoneer S is the brand’s first EV for North America.

The Wagoneer name is right up there with Wrangler and Grand Cherokee in Jeep lore. The original Jeep Wagoneer was one of the first truly civilized SUVs and became the namesake for a modern sub-brand encompassing the Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer, two leviathan gas guzzlers that went on sale as 2022 models. The Wagoneer S shares little with these SUVs besides a name.

Read more
The Kia EV9 is being built in Georgia — making it a whole lot cheaper
Kia EV9 GT-Line Three Quarters

Kia has officially kicked off production of the EV9 electric SUV in Georgia. That's big news for a number of reasons. First, it makes the EV9 the first EV to be assembled in Georgia. Second, it means more solid jobs in the U.S. And third, it means that the well-priced electric SUV is about to get even cheaper.

The reason for the price decrease is simple -- by moving production of the EV9 to Georgia from Korea, the SUV will now qualify for the federal EV tax credit, bringing the total price of the vehicle down by a hefty $7,500. It was already one of the more affordable electric SUVs, but the big rebate makes it even more enticing.

Read more