Volvo plans to introduce virtual-key technology to its car range in 2017, using mobile phone technology to replace the traditional car key.
The car key will be replaced with a Bluetooth-enabled digital virtual key that can be downloaded into a smartphone app. The app will be available on iOS, Android and Windows devices and replicates typical key functions such as locking, unlocking and boot release. It also allows drivers to start the car’s engine remotely.
Volvo will use its current security systems in which both the car and the key hold part of an encrypted key combination to protect the car from potential hackers. If the car's battery goes flat and cannot recognise the key, drivers must call for roadside assistance.
Multiple virtual keys can be stored on a single device, allowing easier access to a number of Volvos. The new technology could be used for car rental and car-sharing schemes, where a key can be downloaded with your rental agreement. It’s a move that Volvo claims will offer more flexibility to its customers.
Trials will be carried out this spring with car-sharing firm Sunfleet, which is based in Sweden. Physical keys will still be offered to the customers who want them.