Google, at its annual developers’ conference, Google I/O 2021, released the first beta version of its upcoming mobile OS, Android 12. In addition to this, the company also gave us a glimpse of some of the features that will be available in Android 12 in the coming days. The list includes better personalization features and stronger privacy measures among others. In addition to this, the company announced that soon Android users will be able to use their smartphones as their car keys.
The company in a blog post said that it is working with car manufacturers to develop a new digital car key in Android 12. With this feature, users will be able to lock, unlock and start their cars using their Android smartphones.
Google is working with BMW and other automakers to develop a digital key that will let car owners lock, unlock and start a vehicle from their Android smartphone, the company announced Tuesday during its 2021 Google I/O developer event.
The digital key is one of many new features coming to Android 12, the latest version of the company’s mobile operating system. The digital car keys will become available on select Pixel and Samsung Galaxy phones later this year, according to Sameer Samat, VP of PM for Android & Google Play. The digital car key will be available in yet unnamed 2022 vehicle models, including ones made by BMW, and some 2021 models.
The digital key uses so-called Ultra-Wideband (UWB) technology, a form of radio transmission for which the sensor can tell the direction of the signal, sort of like a tiny radar. This lets the antenna in your phone locate and identify objects equipped with UWB transmitters. By using UWB technology, the Android user will be able to lock and unlock their vehicle without taking their phone out.
Consumers who own car models that have enabled NFC technology, or near-field communication, will be able to unlock their car by tapping their phone against the door. The phone communicates with an NFC reader in the user’s car, which is typically located within the door handle. Google said users will also be able to securely and remotely share their car keys with friends and family if they need to borrow the car.
The announcement follows a similar move made by Apple last year that allowed users to add a digital car key to their iPhone or Apple Watch. That feature, which was part of iOS 14, works over NFC and first became available in the 2021 BMW 5 Series.
A growing number of automakers have developed their own apps, which can also control certain functions such as remote locking and unlocking. The big benefit, in Google’s and likely Apple’s view, is that by offering the digital car key in its mobile operating system, users don’t have to download an app.
The intent is for a less clunky experience. And there’s a movement to make it even more seamless. The Car Connectivity Consortium, which Apple, Google and Samsung along with automakers BMW, GM, Honda, Hyundai and Volkswagen are members of, have spent the past several years creating an underlying agreement to make it easier to work in a seamless way and to standardize a digital key solution.