Your Android Phone Could Soon Act as a Digital Car Key

Your key ring is about to get lighter

One of the many announcements during the first day of Google I/O on Tuesday was a new digital key feature in Android 12. 

Google said in its blog post that select Pixel and Samsung Galaxy smartphones would be able to use the digital key feature to lock, unlock, and even start a vehicle from the phone, itself. Vehicles have to have either ultra-wideband (UWB) radios or near-field communication (NFC) technology for the feature to work.

woman unlocking car door with smartphone


UWB and NFC are not new technologies, but there are some key differences between them. UWB technology allows you to unlock your car as long as your key fob (or, in this case, your phone) is near your person. With NFC technology, you have to take out your phone and tap it to unlock your car, but both types of technology mean less fumbling around for your car keys. 

Google only confirmed BMW as an automaker that is compatible with this feature, but said it is working with other vehicle makers as well. The digital car key feature will be available later this year. 

Google isn’t the first to introduce a smartphone digital key, though. Last year, Apple announced the addition of a digital car key during WWDC. Apple’s feature can work with iPhones or Apple Watches with iOS 14 and higher and is compatible with the 2021 BMW 5 Series.

Google Digital Car Key example


There is an entire association of tech brands and automakers, known as the Car Connectivity Consortium, trying to promote digital car keys and standardize the interfaces between vehicles and smartphones. Apple, Google, Samsung, LG, BMW, GM, Honda, Hyundai, and Volkswagen are some of the members of this group.

See all our coverage of Google I/O 2021 here.

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