BMW Mulling Possibility of Eliminating Car Keys

Ubiquitousness of cell phones drives possibility.

by on Sep.15, 2017

BMW board member Ian Robertson suggested that car keys may be last year's "technology" as the maker contemplates dumping them for smart phone apps.

Everyone has scrambled around the house, searching for keys sat down in some place not remembered. BMW is considering making that harried episode a part of our past by eliminating keys for its vehicles in the future.

The Bavarian automaker may convert the key function to an app that can be loaded onto one’s cell phone since everyone has a cell phone, noted Ian Robertson, the company’s board member responsible for sales.

The Last Word!

“Honestly, how many people really need it,” he told Reuters, suggesting technology existed to make it so customers no longer had to put the key in the ignition to make the car start.

“They never take it out of their pocket, so why do I need to carry it around?” Robertson said. “We are looking at whether it is feasible, and whether we can do it. Whether we do it right now or at some point in the future, remains to be seen,” Robertson said.

(So near, yet so far. NFC beginning to find a home in cars. For the story, Click Here.)

Robertson didn’t provide details about how the system would work, whether it would need an internet connection or it could use a more localized technology like Bluetooth LE or near-field communications (NFC).

Smart phones as smart keys allows the user to not only start the car, but track its location, unlock it and potentially even park it.

However, NFC is likely to be the winner here. BMW introduced NFC in a mobile application in 2012 but hasn’t done much with the technology, perhaps because there have so far been relatively few applications for it. With the Bavarian maker set to introduce a new version of its connected services platform, the newly renamed BMW Connected Plus, we may start to see more.

The use of an app to unlock a car is already widely used by car-sharing services, including BMW’s ReachNow. Additionally, Daimler’s Car2Go and GM’s Maven use apps as well.

(Click Here to see more about BMW expanding its list of features with new BMW Connected + service.)

In fact, the Tesla Model 3 doesn’t use a key, relying on the Bluetooth Low Energy standard tied a user’s phone, to unlock the car while stored in a purse or sitting in a pocket. It also relies on NFC keycards to unlock or start the car, in the event you want to lend the car to a friend or have a valet park it.

Several supppliers, such as Continental AG and NXP are developing keyless access options. NXP is working to integrate NFC chips into door handles to grant access.

While Continental AG is showing the combination of the keyless entry and start system with a biometric element, opening up new possibilities in the field of vehicle personalization and authentication. The system allows for immediate personalization of a vehicle’s features, such as seat position, temperature and radio station preferences.

(To see more about Continental’s approach to ridding us of keys, .)

It can also be used for security enhancements, such as a touch-screen ignition button that requires a fingerprint. Continental created a joint venture with Belgian company D´Ieteren SA named OTA keys to develop and implement virtual key management solutions for car sharing services, fleet operators and car rental agencies.

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3 Responses to “BMW Mulling Possibility of Eliminating Car Keys”

  1. therr850 says:

    So, to buy a new car I need to buy a $1000 smart phone? My current slide phone sends and receives PHONE CALLS just fine thank you.

    • Paul Schroeder says:

      Perhaps you are not in BMW’s target market…

  2. Hidden says:

    Actually Tesla Model 3 uses ST Micro ST253915 for the doorhandle and middle console as you can see from their fcc reports. Also Mercedes e Class doorhandle uses a ST NFC chip by fcc letter