Google is working with BMW and other automobile companies to develop a new feature. Android 12 users can lock, unlock and start the engine of their car through their phone. I put my Spectrum cable TV packages packages to good use and watched the 2021 I/O developer event where Google announced the new feature.
It is one of the many new additions in Android 12. So, it will be great to see how this technology gets incorporated into our daily lives. The feature seems to work the same way as the key fob of your car. So, you won’t have to take out your smartphone to unlock your vehicle. Even being close to it can work.
How Does It Work
The new Android feature can make a digital copy of your car fob and store it on your smartphone. The functionality will be available for phones with NFC (Near-Field Communication) and UWB (Ultra-Wideband) technology. As NFC radio is slightly older, the users will have to be at a tapping distance from the car. It works the same way as your NFC debit card that you can tap on the POS machine to pay. So, you may still need to take your phone out of your pocket.
On the other hand, UWB works by sending low-power pulses over a wide frequency. The technology does not need physical touches. So, you only need to be in proximity to the car. The UWB sensors in the vehicle can receive the pulses sent by your phone. It can then get translated into a command to control your car. The system in the car can locate the precise location of your phone, and if it is close enough, the vehicle will unlock.
The technology is smooth and seems to be precise. Ideally, the car could recognize minute gestures like the user pointing it towards the door. It can then generate the response you want almost immediately. The process is similar in mechanism to Apple’s new U1 UWB chip.
Google’s feature might look sophisticated, but Apple already has a similar one. Apple’s CarKey has been around since 2020 and can save a digital copy of your car key in Apple Wallet. It is available for any supported car, and you can even access it through the car’s infotainment screen. Moreover, you can also sync it with a manufacturer’s app or an email. Once the key is on your phone’s wallet, you can transfer it to the Apple Watch as well.
Plus, even if your phone’s battery dies, you can still use the NFC reader to unlock your car on an iPhone. When the phone dies, pressing the lock screen button shows a battery sign on your screen. The iPhone is in Express Mode when this happens. So, when you employ this mode, the phone runs the NFC radio in the background. The temporary power-up uses the reserve battery to unlock your car.
Google and iOS have both made it easier to share your car’s digital key. So, if a friend or family member is taking your car you can easily share the key with them.
Who Can Use It
Google has announced that only a select few Pixel and Samsung Galaxy models will have the feature for now. These phones have UWB baked into their systems already. We can soon expect more phone models to start supporting digital keys. The newer models will also have UWB integration and can benefit from the new tech.
Moreover, the number of supported cars is also pretty small. There is still a long way to go for this technology to become mainstream. As more automakers allow support for digital keys, the quicker the process will be. Right now, BMW seems to be the only major automobile company working with Google. They were also the first ones to pair up with Apple for the CarKey. The BMW 5 series became the first to support this feature.
Other companies are reluctant to join because of various reasons. Companies like Tesla, Lincoln, and Mercedes-Benz have already launched their proprietary versions. Hyundai’s key uses the NFC radio while Tesla uses a proximity-based Bluetooth connection.
What Are the Advantages
Although smart keys have been around for a while, there are clear advantages of integrating them with smartphones. Google and Apple’s versions of the technology have a clear edge over others. Users won’t have to download a separate app to control their car remote. Moreover, if your smartphone can do so much with a tap, why shouldn’t it be your car key as well? The one device could be all you need to carry in the future. It has already made calculators, wallets, calendars, etc., redundant. Soon, the car key will also be just another thing your smartphone can do.
The best apps and features in the present day are the ones that offer convenience. It seems like everything is aimed at making life easier and streamlining processes. Samsung also announced that it is working with Audi, Ford, and Genesis for a smart key. All in all, the future seems bright and soon digital keys could become standardized features.
Read more: Best Accessories for Your Car