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IPhone: Apple adds CarKey function to iOS14, BMW will support it first

IPhone:

sim simma… —

The near-field communication standard has been available on Android for a while.


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The answer to Beenie Man’s eternal question is “my iPhone.”

On Monday, Apple revealed a new feature in iOS 14 that will allow (some) users to ditch the keys to their car. It’s called CarKey, and it’s Apple’s implementation of the Car Connectivity Consortium’s Digital Key Release 2.0 standard, which was finalized in early May. The idea is pretty simple. You pair your phone with your car—assuming your vehicle supports this new standard—and from then on you can use the device to unlock and start your car.

The digital key communicates with your car via near-field communication (NFC) and is stored in the same secure enclave that your iPhone uses to store credit cards. That means it’s protected by Face ID or Touch ID, although there is an Express Mode option that allows you to skip authentication. And since it’s a digital key, it can also be shared with other iOS users the way you can share other items in your iOS wallet. However, you don’t need Internet access for it to work, so there shouldn’t be any worries about being locked out of your car if you take a trip to the boonies.

Although this is the first time Apple has implemented this connected car tech, it’s not a new idea. BMW will be the first carmaker to support Apple CarKey when the face-lifted 5 Series goes on sale in July, but the German OEM has already offered an Android version for some time now via its BMW Connected app.

In fact, NFC keys are all the rage in the industry. Tesla, for example, switched to using an NFC card instead of a more conventional remote fob with the introduction of the

Model 3 sedan

several years ago.

As we reported in 2016

, Volvo started playing around with digital keys—including the ability to share them with other authorized users—with its digital concierge service. And digital keys enabled a 2015 pilot program in Germany that turned

the trunk of your Audi into a locker

that DHL could use to drop off your Amazon packages.

Truth be told, some people have been expecting this addition to iPhones for a while. People noticed references to the CarKey API in iOS 13.4 earlier this year. And a BMW press release from December 2019 included a quote from Olaf Müller, head of Development Digital Access Systems at BMW, saying that the brand’s “customers want cross-vendor interoperability.” Since the tech was already available on some Android models, logically Müller must have been referring to iOS.

Many OEMs other than BMW are members of the CCC, including Fiat Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Hyundai, Jaguar Land Rover, Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Renault, Rivian, Subaru, Suzuki, Toyota, Volkswagen, and Volvo. So it’s reasonable to expect this technology to start showing up on models other than the BMW 5 Series before too long. (Tesla is not a member of the CCC, however.) And the group is currently working on finalizing its Release 3.0 spec, which will use Bluetooth Low Energy and Ultra Wideband to “enable these new location-aware features for Digital Key and to allow secure positioning with accuracy equal to or better than existing passive key fobs.”

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