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Technology's latest victim: car keys

24 Feb 16

Car keys might the next to go as technology pushes its way into our every day lives.

As early as next year, car manufacturer Volvo is offering a smartphone app in place of physical car keys to lock and unlock car doors, as well as starting the engine

The new offering will utilise Bluetooth-enabled digital key technology, and acknowledges the popularity of smartphones and the prevalence of them in everyday life, Volvo says.

Seven out of 10 (70%) Kiwis now have a smartphone - a figure which has almost doubled in the past three years - and 91% of those people use their device every single day, according to Research New Zealand figures for 2015.

“The widespread reliance on smartphones for everyday tasks rate has led Volvo to become the world’s first car manufacturer to offer a keyless car that will give drivers more options and flexibility in the use of their vehicles,” the company says in a statement.

Volvo customers will be able to access their car without carrying around keys, and will be able to receive more than one digital key on their smartphone app, allowing them to access different Volvo cars in different locations.

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, Volvo adds.

“Customers could then simply locate the rental car via GPS, unlock it and drive away all with their smartphone, avoiding long queues at airport or train station car rental desks,” the company says.

Users will be able to send their digital key to other people via their mobile phones, eliminating the need to cut extra keys or do a physical handover.

“At Volvo, we believe new technology has to make our customers’ lives easier and save them time, which is exactly what these digital keys will be able to do,” says Coby Duggan, national manager of Volvo New Zealand.

“Mobility needs are evolving, and so are our customers’ expectation to access cars in an uncomplicated way,” he says.

“This innovative digital key technology has the potential to completely change how a Volvo can be accessed and shared, and means a car can be used more often and efficiently by whoever the owner wishes to grant access to.”

Volvo will pilot the technology this year via its car sharing firm Sunfleet, stationed at Gothenburg airport in Sweden. A limited number of commercially available cars will be equipped with the new digital key technology in 2017.

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

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