Apple CarKey would be available in several cars but the first example will come in BMW’s 2021MY 5 Series mid-size saloon
Technology giant Apple Inc. has announced a new feature called CarKey on its iOS smartphone software. An upcoming software update will allow users to unlock and start their cars via the iPhone, as a ‘smart key’ of modern times. Of course, the vehicle has to support the system. It was announced by Apple at the World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC) 2020 and is coming to iOS 13 and iOS 14 software versions.
Though Apple has shared that it will be working with major OEMs to introduce the feature on a range of products, the company has entered into an initial partnership with BMW. As a result, the first car to feature Apple CarKey will be the 2021MY BMW 5 Series. In this case, the system is dubbed the ‘BMW Digital Key’. It was only recently that Bavarian automaker debuted the mid-size saloon’s performance variant, M5.
In its simplest form, Apple CarKey lets the iPhone be used as a key to lock or unlock a vehicle. After getting in, the system can start up the engine (or power unit) once the iPhone is placed in a smartphone tray. Configurable via BMW Smartphone App, the Digital Key can be shared with up to five users. Drivers can control a range of functions such as restricting top speed, vehicle output and radio volume. Apple has also confirmed that in the future, these functions would be accessible without even having to take out the iPhone from one’s pocket or bag.
From a security point of view, Apple states that its digital key system will stay within the owner’s iPhone and will not be stored in the cloud. This is similar to the way Apple’s Face ID and Wallet information are saved. Apple CarKey is compatible with Apple Watch and in the event of the phone getting turned off due to low battery, a five-hour power reserve would keep the system functional.
The Digital Key specification 2.0 for NFC was released in May 2020. On the other hand, the next-gen Digital Key using Ultra-Wideband technology is in the works. In phases, BMW will be introducing the feature in 45 markets across the globe (including India). Following the 2021MY BMW 5 Series, the company will deliver BMW Digital Key to the latest-gen 1 Series, 2 Series, 3 Series, 4 Series, 6 Series, 8 Series, X5, X6, X7, X5M, X6M and Z4 models manufactured from July 2020.
While this is a first for the Apple iPhone, the Tesla Model 3 was the first automobile which allowed smartphones to be used as a digital key. Other manufacturers have also introduced their own versions of ‘phone car keys’.