By the year 2017, car keys may be history if you’re driving a Volvo. The Swedish automaker is planning to become the world’s first automaker to replace physical car keys with a digital key, operable via an app. The key utilises Bluetooth connectivity on the owner’s smartphone. This, according to Volvo, will also enable new ways to use and share cars.

Aside from just being able to lock and unlock a car, the app will also allow for the opening of the boot and start-up of the engine, without the physical key nearby. To add to that, the company says that the technology also offers customers the possibility to obtain more than one digital key, which in turn allows them to access different Volvo cars.

With the app, rental car companies may gain from such a feature, as it will eliminate the troublesome need for long queues at counters. People all over the world can easily book and pay for a rental car (obviously a Volvo) and later, a digital key will be sent directly to their smartphone. Upon arrival at their destination, they can locate the car with the GPS and drive away immediately.

Phone as key

On top of that, with the digital key, Volvo owners can send their digital key to family members, friends or co-workers via their mobile phones, allowing them to use the vehicle, the company says. According to Henrik Green, VP of product strategy and vehicle line management at Volvo cars, mobility needs are evolving along with customers’ expectations to “access cars in an uncomplicated way.”

“Our innovative digital key technology has the potential to completely change how a Volvo can be accessed and shared. Instead of sitting idle in a parking lot the entire day, cars could be used more often and efficiently by whoever the owner wishes,” Green added.

Volvo will pilot this technology come spring 2016 through Sunfleet – its car sharing firm – based at the Gothenburg airport in Sweden. Following that, a limited number of commercially available cars will be issued with the new digital key tech by 2017. Previously, the brand had put this digital key to use in an ‘in-car delivery’ stint involving Postnord, and in Sweden.