Owen WilliamsFormer TNW employee
Owen was a reporter for TNW based in Amsterdam, now a full-time freelance writer and consultant helping technology companies make their word Owen was a reporter for TNW based in Amsterdam, now a full-time freelance writer and consultant helping technology companies make their words friendlier. In his spare time he codes, writes newsletters and cycles around the city.
Lose your phone, lose your car — well, maybe, if Volvo has its way with its plan to kill the car key in favor of a smartphone app in 2017.
The car company announced today that it plans to drop physical keys and fobs as early as next year in favor of a Volvo app and Bluetooth, which would do everything instead.
You’ll be able to unlock the doors, start the car, open the trunk and more, provided your phone is in range, as well as have multiple ‘keys’ on your device to access a number of different cars.
What’s interesting is that the company is selling this as a way to use your car for ride-sharing out of the factory, so it’s not sitting idle all the time. Car owners will be able to share the key with other people’s phones so they can use the car without anything more than the app.
Other car manufacturers let you use your phone to manage various functions of the car, including Tesla and BMW, but none of them have entirely replaced a key fob yet, which usually needs to be within range of the car to allow it to be started or driven.
That could have big ramifications on car ownership in the future, as ridesharing becomes even more commonplace and the number of people owning their own cars continues to slide.
The digital key that Volvo plans is also a threat to car sharing companies like Zipcar and GetAround which offer to retrofit any car with technology that offers similar functionality for ridesharing — if Volvo builds in its own technology, the company owns the platform and can become a competitor.
Volvo plans to roll out the technology to a “limited” number of commercially available cars in 2017 and will test it in the real world from spring via its car sharing firm Sunfleet, stationed at Gothenburg airport, Sweden.
For those that don’t trust their phone to be the end-all Volvo says it will offer a physical key to those that prefer them.
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