Smartphones – the new car keys


21st January 2020


4 min


Patrick Richardson

Mobile devices and apps have become our primary mode of interacting with everything around us. We have  seen huge innovatiions in the IoT sector‚ which are enabling us to control everything in our homes – from lights to security – with our mobile devices. Advancements in CUI have also enabled us to interact with our homes and surroundings‚ without even touching a mobile device.

Even with the advances in CUI‚ it is essential to note that physical mobile devices and wearables are not going to disappear. Their form and factor might change over the years‚ but there will still be a device that listens to you and processes your request accordingly. 

The evolution of automotives

One of the sectors that is being radically changed during today’s fast-growing innovation era is automotive. By automotive we do not just mean changes in the manufacturing and design process‚ but also rapid trasformations in the user experience. 

Although there is going to be a huge interest and innovation in the self-driving mechanism of these vehicles‚ our focus for today will be on the evolution of how these vehicles interact with our mobile devices. 

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Source: Flickr

We noticed a rise in devices that talk to our vehicles and get information on various details‚ from fuel consumption to driving statistics‚ to cotrol of our in-car entertainment. With the launch of systems like CarPlay and Android Auto‚ these devices are practically replacing the car’s infotainment system as well. Gone are the days of Tom Toms hanging from the rear view mirror (which in itself is slowly disappearing‚ thanks to cameras and sensors being fit into the vehicles today).  

Now your phone acts as a single location for streaming music‚ finding routes‚ as well as communicating through calls‚ messages and even emails in the car. In a scenario like this‚ the driver simply has to walk to the car with his phone and keys and have everything that he/she needs in the car. So it makes sense to think that the one extra item that you carry with you to the car today could also be replaced with the help of a mobile – the car key.

Could smartphones really replace car keys?

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Source: Volvo

Before you declare that we are out of our mind‚ have a look at the concept that Volvo is working on. Yes‚ Volvo has worked with app developers to build a smartphone app that acts as a key for the vehicle.

For now‚ Volvo confirms that a physical key is available with the car; the smartphone app will act as a second key. But we cannot deny the fact that it does make things easier for the users‚ meaning they don’t need to carry a physical key wherever they go. 

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Source: Volvo

A smartphone has practically become a part of the human body‚ an extension of your palm; It’s easy to forget to take the car key‚ but you’re less likely to forget your smartphone. 

Volvo also makes an amazing case of sharing vehicles. Most individuals loan out their car to either a friend or family member‚  which means they would have to give them a key along with it. If they do end up losing the key‚ they could potentially create a scenario where the owner would have to spend time sourcing a duplicate key from the dealership. With the smartphone app‚ the owner doesn’t actually need to give the driver their key; they can just give their smartphone access to unlock and start the car.  

We’re yet to discover what other options the Volvo smartphone app has‚ but we think there are a lot of scenarios where it could prove useful. One such scenario is when the user has more than one car of the same brand with him/her. They could just walk into the garage and unlock any car that they want to drive at that moment‚ without having to carry a bunch of keys or plan ahead and take that particular car’s key. Even in a scenario where the owner has multiple vehicles from multiple brands‚ each brand could have their own key app to unlock the vehicle. 

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Source: Volvo

The ever-present problem of security might make drivers feel uneasy about switching keys for smartphone apps. However‚ as technology becomes increasingly sophisticated‚ it’s only a matter of time before this concept comes to frution. So we can finally empty our pockets of keys once and for all.