Cars That Use Digital Keys

Mercedes Me App Digital Key

In 2017, Tesla introduced its digital key for the Tesla Model 3. Since then, other car companies have jumped on board. Paired to an Apple, Samsung, or Google smartphone, this digital key allows car owners to lock, unlock, and sometimes start their vehicles by simply having a smartphone present.

Today, dozens of car models make a digital key available as either a standard or upgraded feature.

What is a Digital Key?

A digital car key gives drivers the ability to lock and unlock their cars from their smartphones. In some cases, the phone acts as a fully functioning key, meaning you can start and turn off the engine with just your phone if you can’t find your physical key fob. It’s as simple as downloading the car manufacturer’s app and holding the phone near the vehicle to close and open it. This new technology can be managed in the “wallet” systems of Apple, Samsung, and Google smartphones.

The benefit of a digital key is that it comes in handy if you lose your physical one. Rather than searching through your entire house, all you need is your smartphone to make your commute. Many newer cars like the Kia Niro allow drivers to use this feature. This technology even comes standard on many vehicles, including the Lincoln Navigator.

This digital key technology is gaining traction but is still not offered as a standard feature on many vehicles. If you want it, it may cost you a monthly or yearly fee.

How Does a Digital Key Work?

Digital Key Car Lock and unlock

Digital keys are straightforward to use. You simply download the car manufacturer’s app to your phone and connect it via Bluetooth. Once you’ve installed the app, hold your phone to your car’s door, and your car will either lock or unlock for you.

However, technology has continually improved since digital keys first entered the scene. As a result, some cars don’t require you to hold the phone directly on the vehicle. Instead, just being near the car will unlock it for you. There is no need to take your phone out of your pocket or bag with this feature.

Digital key smartphone technology is available on Apple, Samsung, and Google phones, depending on your car’s make. If you have additional Apple devices, including an Apple Watch, you can also use it to unlock your vehicle.

Some cars, including the Honda Passport, allow you to lock and unlock your vehicle from the digital key, but you can also use it to remote start your vehicle, which can come in handy on a hot or cold day to cool or heat the cabin before you enter.

For ease of mind, some carmakers such as Toyota claim that firmware in their vehicles helps keep digital keys secure and tied to an identifiable device.

Benefits of a Digital Key

We’ve all been there at least once: You get ready to leave the house and suddenly can’t find your keys. The good news is that losing your keys is much more common than losing your phone, which is where digital keys come into play. If you can’t find your keys, your phone can get the job done until you locate them. This is even more helpful when your digital key app can also start your vehicle.

Simply being near your vehicle with your smartphone on hand will allow you to unlock it and lock it up when you exit the car. Since this feature applies to newer cars, the vehicle will undoubtedly come with a push start, so several applications will also be able to start the car. While the digital key is something you may overlook as a convenient feature, the one day you need it, you will be happy to have it.

As a bonus, if you have a car multiple people use, some vehicles like the Mercedes GLE allow you to transfer your digital key access to friends, family, babysitters, or whoever you want to grant access to from the app.

Are Digital Keys Secure?

According to the Car Connectivity Consortium, a group of carmakers and technology experts developing global standards and solutions for smartphone and in-vehicle connectivity, mobile devices create and store digital keys in secure places. The consortium says they recently upgraded security and added a new layer of security for a vehicle’s digital key using UWB, or ultra-wideband technology.

The consortium says the UWB tech keeps vehicles more secure from potential threats. Carmakers like BMW use UWB technology for its “Digital Key Plus,” stating how it prevents relay attacks or interception of digital information.

However, not every vehicle uses UWB technology. According to SlashGear, any “potential security flaw can be solved if your digital car key supports UWB, BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy, and NFC (near-field communication) simultaneously.”

Car Brands That Offer Digital Keys

2022 Tesla Model Y Blue Front

The list of carmakers offering digital keys on U.S. models continues to grow. The list below is subject to change, but these are the brands that offer them.

  • *Audi
  • *Acura
  • *BMW
  • *Buick
  • *Cadillac
  • *Chevrolet
  • *Chrysler
  • *Dodge
  • Fiat
  • Ford
  • Genesis
  • *GMC
  • Honda
  • Hyundai
  • Infiniti
  • *Jeep
  • Kia
  • *Land Rover
  • *Lexus
  • *Mazda
  • *Mercedes-Benz
  • *Mini
  • Nissan
  • *Porsche
  • *Ram
  • Subaru
  • Toyota
  • Volkswagen
  • Volvo

*Available on every model as of 2020

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Source: KBB Feed