The death of the car key?
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The days of having a car key bulging in your pocket or getting lost at the bottom of your handbag could soon be over.
Many automotive companies are moving to dump car keys altogether - the latest being Hyundai, which has announced a new ‘digital key’ system that will be rolled out globally later in 2019.
The new system will allow owners to unlock and start their vehicle using their smartphone rather than requiring a key to be nearby.
The system will work on models with proximity key and push-button start capability, using Near Field Communication to detect an authorised smartphone and allow access. The car can be unlocked using the sensors in the front doors, while there’s another sensor in the wireless phone charging pad that will allow the car to be started.
Hyundai claims the smartphone app will - like Volvo and Tesla, among others - allow customers to “lock and unlock the vehicle, activate the alarm and start the engine” over a Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) connection, which is already available with Hyundai's Autolink Premium program. Plus, according to the brand, a system similar to the Tesla Summon control - where the car will come to you autonomously - is set to be available.
The smartphone key can be 'shared' with up to four other smartphone users, opening up the notion of being able to rent a hire vehicle or car share without having to use a physical key - and therefore remove the need for unsightly lock boxes.
Plus your personal preferred settings will be remembered, too - the digital key will align with a driver profile that can adjust the mirrors, seat, steering wheel, audio, sat nav and head up display to your specific needs.
The announcement has been made for Hyundai Motor Group, which means it could be rolled out on a Hyundai, or a Kia or Genesis model - no production planning has been announced at this stage, but a local debut is likely at some point.
“The technology is on the cards for Australia, but there is no timing confirmed as yet,” said Hyundai Australia public relations manager, Guido Schenken.
If we were to guess which car we’d see it on first, it could be the new Hyundai Sonata 2020 model, or the Genesis G80 - the replacement for the Hyundai Genesis sedan - which is due to make its debut later this year.
This tech isn’t groundbreaking per se, but it is intriguing to see a mainstream company planning to roll it out. There are other examples of this sort of system being used, including in luxury or niche car brands, but also, in the US, as a means for Amazon delivery drivers to be able to leave packages in your car.