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Apple CarKey enables new iPhone to unlock your car

By Tom Fraser, 23 Jun 2020 Car News

iPhone BMW 540i

Apple’s new tech allows you to unlock, start and drive your car without the need of a traditional key. You can even allow vehicle access over a text message.

Apple wants its latest iPhone to replace your car key. Announced at the company’s Worldwide Developer’s Conference with a litany of other new iPhone updates, the new CarKey function will allow users to unlock, start the engine and drive off without the need for a traditional car key. 

The tech giant has partnered with BMW to introduce the CarKey feature with its new 5 Series, inviting users to simply download the digital key app and pair the phone to the car.

To unlock the car, the phone is touched to the door handle and the Near Field Communication (NFC) network – which wirelessly sends data across devices in close proximity to one another – talks to the vehicle's security system and allows access once authorised.

Read next: Forgot your car keys? Use your phone

Users can then jump inside, keep the phone in a pocket and start the car using the starter button, just as they would using a conventional 'keyless' technology.

Digital key access is able to be shared with up to five trusted family members or friends, all sent via a simple iMessage. The application can also be used to place restrictions such as how much time a user is allowed to drive the car.

Apple is currently working with industry groups to expand the technology and offer it in partnership with other brands, and is developing ultra-wideband tech to allow unlocking and locking the car from further away.

Read next: Is it illegal to use AirPods while driving?

CarKey is supported in the latest iOS 14 software and can be enabled on iOS 13 devices through an update. 

The technology has been around for some time, and brands including Volvo and Tesla have similar systems in place, but none has quite the same reach or potential as Apple, which could feasibly make the phone-as-a-key idea commonplace across the wider automotive industry.

Read: Bosch aims to make car keys a thing of the past

BMW is the first manufacturer to partner with Apple for CarKey and the technology will be functional from July. There are plans for the feature to be rolled out to other manufacturers in the future.