The good old days of the physical car key fob may be coming to an end, as car manufacturers team up with tech companies to work towards developing digital keys that are to be stored on smartphones. This, according to Autocar, makes it harder to hack than traditional contact-less key fobs, and represents progression in the advancing field of automotive cybersecurity.

A large group of companies have come together to form the Car Connectivity Consortium (CCC), which comprise of 70% of the world’s car industry, such as Audi, BMW, Honda, Toyota, GM, Hyundai, Mercedes-Benz, PSA Group and Volkswagen, as well as 60% of the smart device market such as Alpine, Apple, LG, Panasonic and Samsung.

The technology works the same as that in contactless payments via smartphones, and it will be able to lock and unlock cars, as well as engage with vehicles fitted with push-button start without the need of a fob. The CCC aims to standardise the tech, allowing it to be adopted globally and across the industry.

An illustration of the Mercedes-Benz’s digital car key

Another key emphasis is the subject of car-sharing schemes, considering that more carmakers are moving away from conventional car ownership. In fact, shared cars, car subscription services and other upcoming mobility schemes will reportedly dominate sales in the long run.

A good example of this is Lynk & Co’s ‘Share’ function, which enables the owner to provide other users access to the 01 via a shareable digital key (video of how it works below). Volvo on the other hand, hopes to have 50% of its total sales to be subscription-based by 2025.

Of course, security is a big concern if the physical car key were to be digitised. For that, the CCC has outlined five key points as guidelines:

  • Trustworthiness: potential thieves cannot create false signals to the car
  • Completeness: thieves cannot tamper with messages by removing them or parts of them
  • Freshness: thieves cannot replicate old messages
  • Binding: thieves cannot pretend to be previous users
  • Independence: the messages are unrelated to anything else but their intended purpose

With development already underway, expect the technology to debut before the end of the decade. For now, what are your thoughts on the matter? Discuss below!