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Digital Future. How Apple changes the world with the Car Key feature?

At the WWDC 2020 World Conference, Apple announced a new operating system - iOS 14. One of its features is a new feature Apple Car Key, with which the smartphone can be used as a car key to unlock the car remotely.

The iPhone and Apple Watch gadgets already support NFC, so owners of Apple devices will be able to lock, unlock, and start compatible cars with them without using a physical key.

What is Apple Car Key?

Apple Car Key is a digital protocol that can use iPhone or Apple Watch devices through NFC support to unlock/lock the car door and start its engine.

By default, cars do not support NFC, so Apple expects it to be implemented by car manufacturers. Following the same principle, many car brands are introducing Apple CarPlay multimedia software into their models.

The car keys will work according to the NFC-based Digital Key 2.0 specification protocol developed by the Car Connectivity Consortium (CCC), including Apple.

Digital Key 2.0 will ensure the secure connection of mobile devices to the car via NFC.

How does Apple Car Key work?

Owners of many modern cars use keychains that open the car and can start it, but only at close range. In terms of functionality, the Car Key is very similar to them and is a digital version of the car key that can be stored in the Wallet application.

Car Key will lock/unlock the car using an NFC sensor located inside the car via Apple Watch or iPhone. When the sensor detects the digital code of the key stored on the iPhone or Apple Watch, the car's locking mechanism is triggered.

iPhone will control the unlocking using the Face ID or Touch ID option, although the iOS 13 code provides an express mode, which eliminates the need for authentication, which will speed up unlocking the car.

"To use the Car Key, you need to bring the iPhone or Apple Watch to the reader. It also works automatically, without Face ID. You will be able to change the express mode settings in Wallet "- it is stated in the description from iOS.

That is the Car Key in the Wallet application?

Apple Car Key looks like a standard bank card in the Wallet application. When you receive the card, it contains information about the car, such as the model number, the car manufacturer.

It is possible to switch to express mode to activate the unlock function for other people.

Can I share the Car Key with another person?

So. The developers have made it possible to send the car's digital key to another person to unlock the car, through the standard iMessage application.

Sharing option will be useful when parking vehicles with hotel staff or sharing a car, such as a wife, friend, repair shop, or other similar situation.

Moreover, it will be possible to provide different access levels, including full access to unlock and drive, limited, for example, to allow someone to open the car, but without starting the engine. Access can be permanent or temporary.

"The owner of the vehicle may allow another person to use his truck by providing access for unlocking and driving. This option will allow using an iPhone or Apple Watch to unlock/lock the car, start the engine and perform the movement, "- said in the description for iOS.

There are three levels of access:

  1. Unlock the car;
  2. Unlock the car and drive;
  3. Unlock the trunk only.

In iMessage, you can send a Car Key just like we send an Apple Cash. You can only share car keys individually - group mailing of access is not possible.

The person who received the Car Key from your car will be able to use their iPhone or Apple Watch to unlock and start the vehicle, as well as the owner himself.

Will Apple Car Key work on all vehicles?

No. Car keys will only work on cars that support the NFC feature, which manufacturers must take care of.

Apple is already working with some automakers, and Car Key may already be an option set by the manufacturer. But this only applies to new car models.

However, as with CarPlay, there may be additional options for installing an NFC reader connected to car locks and the engine.

Apple's first partner announced at WWDC is BMW, whose cars already support locking / unlocking doors and starting the engine with a BMW digital key from the BMW Connected program.

BMW adds Car Key support for all its models released after July 1, 2020. Most likely other manufactures will add Car Key soon.

Will the Car Key work if the iPhone battery is low?

Yes! But there are some nuances. Car Key works with NFC support, so they will continue to function even if the iPhone or Apple Watch battery has a low charge or has recently been discharged because it is in low power mode.

However, it will not always be possible to unlock a car with a completely "dead" gadget. It will depend on how much time has passed since the iPhone's battery is completely discharged, and whether all power reserves have been exhausted.

Apple says it should run out of power for about five hours after your iPhone needs to be recharged, although using the NFC feature with power saver will reduce that time.

What is Apple Car Key's future?

The CCC Digital Key 2.0 specification was released in May 2020. The Car Connectivity Consortium is now working on a next-generation Digital Key 3.0 specification based on Bluetooth LE and Ultra-Wideband (UWB), which will provide passive access without location binding.

Thanks to the feature that works via Bluetooth or UWB + NFC, you can not even take the iPhone out of your pocket to unlock or start the car.

Starting with Apple's iPhone 11, 11 Pro, and 11 Pro Max, the Ultra-Wideband feature will be available for use.