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March 5, 2019

Hyundai Says By the End of the Year, You'll be Ready to Ditch Your Car Key

Last January, Hyundai teased everyone with the near-production concept of using fingerprints as a way to open and start a car. While they promise that the technology will roll out in selected markets, beginning with the Santa Fe, they’ve also turned their attention to using mobile phones to act as car keys as well.

Starting later this year, selected Hyundai and Kia models will have a so-called “digital key” that can unlock and start their vehicle by simply using their smartphone. Replacing a traditional physical key, the new Digital Key can be downloaded via an app and used by up to 4 authorized people.

The system uses NFC or Near Field Communication technology to unlock a car whenever a smartphone equipped with an authorized-Digital Key is nearby. By itself, NFC is a form of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), which boasts a high level of security. The NFC wireless data communication takes place only when the device and the reader are placed several centimeters apart. Thus, to prevent unwanted access, the NFC antenna is embedded in the driver and front passenger door handles only while for starting the engine, it’s located within the wireless charging pad.

Aside from just locking/unlocking and starting a car, this digital key also stores a driver’s preferred settings. Upon detection, it will adjust things like mirrors, seats, and the steering wheel position automatically as well as controls for the audio, video, and navigation systems.

The Digital Key can also control selected vehicle systems remotely using the smartphone. Using Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) communication, users can lock and unlock the vehicle, activate the alarm and start the engine. In addition, once the vehicles with autonomous parking features are commercialized, such features are also expected to be remotely controlled.

Hyundai says that the level of access to different vehicle functions can be tailored to each user, for a defined period. The vehicle owner can preset the duration of vehicle use or limit the use to only certain features when renting the vehicle. For instance, it can even be used to enable a courier to open the boot to deliver a parcel.

The Korean carmaker also says that once car sharing becomes more widespread, the Digital Key will be further programmed to support hassle-free vehicle rental where the owner and the driver won’t have to meet but can transfer the Digital Key via the smartphone application.

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