Can a SmartPhone Replace your Car Keys?


Hyundai reports that it is working to create a system that uses any SmartPhone to unlock a car in lieu of a remote key !

Using an embedded NFC (Near Field Communication) tag, Hyundai says that any SmartPhone with the appropriate reader, will be able to open the  car, start the engine and link up to the touchscreen with a simple swipe (and BlueTooth connectivity).

To demonstrate this, Hyundai created a  “Connectivity Concept” version of it’s highly successful i30 compact hatch (aka the Elantra in the USA) and added NFC technology.

In a recent demo at it’s European headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany, Korean automaker claimed that the driver can swipe their phone across an embedded NFC chip on the outside of the door, to unlock the car.

Further, once inside, with the phone sitting in the center console, the car could be started, while an inductive charging plate keeps the phone charged and connectivity flowing without needing to `plug in’.

“With this technology, Hyundai is able to harness the all-in-one functionality of existing smartphone technology and integrate it into everyday driving in a seamless fashion,” says Allan Rushforth, senior vice president and COO of Hyundai Motor Europe.

But unlocking and starting the car is only a small part of a bigger connectivity picture for Hyundai.

Because the system can recognize different smartphones, it can customize the in-car experience to suit each driver’s seat, mirror and infotainment settings. In other words, it recognizes the driver, and sets the personal settings accordingly.

Once the phone is in the console, it links up with the 7-inch touchscreen mounted in the dash (using MirrorLink software and standard), to automatically import contacts, navigation destinations, streaming audio and of course apps.

Hyundai and its connectivity partners at Broadcom are working to get this NFC- and MirrorLink-driven technology to market in its next generation of products, with the automaker claiming to have many of these systems in place by 2015.

So, can a SmartPhone replace your car keys ? Hyundai says YES ! And although we would agree that this is the direction that all car manufacturers would be moving towards (as technologies continue to converge), consideration for costs and safety need to be made during this evaluation period. A SmartPhone is more expensive than a key fob and they tend to get stolen, damaged and lost more frequently. Will the manufacturer provide a key with a new car purchase and a spare to match ?

Also, with a center console being the central display for the in-dock SmartPhone, there may be safety issues or at least distraction issues that need to be addressed.


1 Comment

  1. This is an awesome article with a great comparison of most recent technologies!

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