One aspect of the automotive world that concerns us here at eCars247 as much as it concerns everyone else is the matter of vehicle theft. It seems as if no sooner than car manufacturers develop some form of additional security, so the criminal fraternity get one jump ahead of them. Just recently though, car brands have been working on further ways to secure our cars and make ownership and access more of a personal identity in the sense of our automotive lifestyle. They are developing the digital smartphone car key.
The Future Car Key?
The example here is from South Korean car maker Hyundai, who are at the forefront of the development of the ‘Digital Key’, but in one way or another most brands are looking at this feature. The technology allows car owners to unlock and start their vehicle via their smartphone. This makes a lot of sense since the smartphone is as ubiquitous in our lives as a ballpoint pen used to be. It’s simplicity itself: Replacing a traditional physical key, a digital key can be downloaded in the usual way via an app and could conceivably be used by up to four authorized people. Parents with teenage children might want to monitor this.
Once downloaded by a mobile phone, the digital car key utilises something called ‘Near Field Communication’ (NFC) technology. This detects the presence of an authorized digital key-enabled smartphone in close proximity to the vehicle door. The NFC antenna for entry identification is located for convenience in the handles of the driver and front passenger’s doors. The antenna for starting the engine is located within the wireless charging pad, an increasingly popular feature in the latest vehicles. After unlocking the driver can start the engine by placing the phone on the wireless charging pad in the centre console and pressing an engine Start/Stop button on the dashboard.
The owner’s preferred settings are stored in the vehicle in the same way as musical and connectivity preferences are. Once the key is recognized those settings are adjusted automatically – including if required the position of mirrors, seats and the steering wheel, as well as controls for the audio, video and navigation systems and even any heads-up display. Once adopted the digital key can be used to control selected vehicle systems remotely. Using familiar Bluetooth Low Energy communication, users can lock and unlock the vehicle, activate the alarm and start the engine. In addition, once the vehicles with autonomous parking features are fully exploited, such facilities are also expected to be remotely controlled.
It is especially important that a one-size-fits-all approach is not taken. Varying degrees of access to different vehicle functions should be able to be tailored to each user over time. The vehicle owner can preset the duration of vehicle use or limit the use to only certain features when lending the vehicle to a friend or relative. With the autonomous car revolution just around the corner it might even be possible to rent the car out to other users as car sharing becomes more widespread. The owner and the driver would not have to meet as access could be transferred via the smartphone application. How car owners would feel about this car sharing idea is another matter. It could even be used to enable a delivery courier to open the trunk to deliver a package, which would save them having to chuck it over the back garden fence! The opportunities for making the usage of cars more convenient seems endless via this technology.
Finally, when it comes to vehicle security the digital key app could trigger an alarm when the vehicle exceeds a defined speed or travels outside a designated area, enabling tracking. This is where, once again, the issue of privacy rears its enquiring head. When all else fails, a regular key would still be supplied. The development of automotive science is gaining pace as car makers study other ways to harness this type of connected-car technology. Let’s hope it will enhance our driving and ownership experience and not become another annoyance. Whatever, right now all our quality used cars
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