Swedish automaker looking to make car keys a thing of the past

Volvo’s pursuit to make the lives of its customers less complicated will soon include the ability to drive their cars without keys and share them with other people who also don’t have keys. If this sounds awesome and scary at the same time, it might be because it actually is awesome and scary at the same time.

Volvo has developed a technology that basically renders traditional car keys and the more modern electronic fobs both irrelevant. Instead, the car owner’s smartphone will function as the car key itself. There’s a Volvo app that controls all of these unique features and, through the power of Bluetooth, a Volvo owner can use the car, leave it behind, and actually share it with anybody for as long as you’re connected to them through Volvo’s On-Call app. How cool would that be, right? No physical exchange of car keys needed. A few swipes here and a few clicks there and somebody else can get access to your Volvo without having to come to you.

Just as important is when the shoe is on the other foot, like when you go somewhere and you need a car to drive. Through the same car-sharing feature of the app, you can search for a Volvo in another city and let other Volvo owners share their cars with you. This eliminates the need to go the car rental route and should make it easier for a lot of people in Volvo’s shared network to go places.

The technology is far from production-ready, but Volvo is optimistic that it could roll out the digital key to a limited number of vehicles by 2017. In the meantime, the Swedish automaker will be in attendance at the Mobile World Congress 2016 in Barcelona, Spain, later this month to showcase the technology to a public audience.

Continue after the jump to read the full story.

Why it matters

Volvo Pushing To Have Keyless Cars In The Future
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On the surface, this has all the makings of being a really awesome feature. It could even prove to be useful for families and travelers who might need a car at a moment’s notice. But I do have questions about its security, especially when you have hackers that seem to capable of anything. Remember, there have been past instances when cars have been stolen through technological means. It’s one of the drawbacks of cars becoming more and more like rolling computers. They also become more susceptible to hacking.

I don’t speak the hacking language, so the whole technical process behind this hacking thefts flies above my head. But, I do know that when smartphone apps are involved, hackers can intercept signals transmitted from these devices and use them to their advantage. I’m sure that Volvo knows all of this and has come up with safety and security measures to keep hackers from hacking into its own smartphone app. But, even with the safest security measures in place, there’s still no guarantee that this app will be hack-proof. Hackers evolve the same way technology does. And, if more complicated security codes can be breached, what’s stopping them from taking down something like this and stealing somebody else’s Volvo. There are also a number of ways that this technology could backfire. What if the person you shared your Volvo with uses it for something nefarious? Would you, as the car’s owner, be implicated in the event some criminal act was done using your car?

I get why Volvo is doing this and I understand that I may just be too paranoid about these things. But, let’s not forget that the risks are real and we should all be, at the very least, cognizant of that. Knowing is half the battle and as long as there are perceived consequences to this technology, it’s going to be tricky for owners to get fully on board with the whole idea of car sharing. Don’t get me wrong. I want to use this technology because it is kind of cool, but I’ll only use if it I know that it can’t backfire on me for whatever reason.

Press Release

For decades, drivers have been accustomed to accessing and driving cars with physical keys. But no longer. In a ground-breaking move for the automotive industry, Volvo Cars plans to become the world’s first car manufacturer to offer cars without keys from 2017.

Volvo Pushing To Have Keyless Cars In The Future
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Volvo customers will be offered an application for their mobile phones to replace the physical key with a digital key. The innovative Bluetooth-enabled digital key technology, will offer Volvo customers far more flexibility, enabling them to benefit from entirely new ways to use and share cars.

The new Volvo app enables the digital key on the customer’s mobile phone to do everything a physical key currently does, such as locking or unlocking the doors or the trunk and allowing the engine to be started.

This new technology will also offer customers the possibility to receive more than one digital key on their app allowing them to access different Volvo cars in different locations – according to their changing mobility needs.

Using the app people could potentially book and pay for a rental car anywhere in the world and have the digital car key delivered to their phone immediately. On arrival a customer could simply locate the rental car via GPS, unlock it and drive away, avoiding those frustrating queues at airport or train station car rental desks.

Volvo Cars’ digital key means that sharing a car will become both simple and convenient. Volvo owners will be able to send their digital key to other people via their mobile phones so that they can also use the car, this may be family members, friends or co-workers in a company.

“At Volvo we are not interested in technology for the sake of technology. New technology has to make our customers’ lives easier and save them time. Mobility needs are evolving and so are our customers’ expectation to access cars in an uncomplicated way,” said Henrik Green, Vice President Product Strategy & Vehicle Line Management at Volvo Cars. “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.”

Volvo Pushing To Have Keyless Cars In The Future
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Volvo will pilot this technology in spring 2016 via its car sharing firm Sunfleet, stationed at Gothenburg airport, Sweden. A limited number of commercially available cars will be equipped with the new digital key technology in 2017.

“There are obviously many permutations when it comes to how this shared key technology can be used,” added Martin Rosenqvist, New Car Director, Special Products at Volvo Cars. “We look forward to seeing how else this technology might be used in the future and we welcome any and all ideas.”

Volvo is a pioneer with new digital key solutions. In 2015 the Swedish premium carmaker launched the world’s first commercial offer to have online shopping delivered directly to the car, by providing a one-time digital key to a delivery company. Now the digital key technology will also be made available for customers.

Physical keys will continue to be offered for people who want them.

Volvo’s innovative keyless car technology will be shown for the first time at the Mobile World Congress 2016 (22-25 February) in Barcelona at the Ericsson booth.

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