Volvo to launch a car without a physical key

Can you imagine accessing and driving your car without a physical key? In a first for the automotive industry, Volvo is set to become the first car manufacturer to offer cars without keys from 2017.


The new Volvo app enables the digital key on the customer’s mobile phone to do everything a physical key currently does, such as locking or unlocking the doors and starting the engine.

Volvo is developing the application in-house, and customers using iOS, Android, and Windows Mobile will be able to replace their physical key with a digital key.

The technology will also offer customers the possibility to receive more than one digital key on their app, allowing them to access different Volvo cars in different locations.

Security considerations

Sascha Heiniger, Communication Manager Connected Car, Volvo Car Corporation, believes that the security of the app will be adapted to the function.

“We have the same security standards as for our keyless entry system today, where both the car and the key hold parts of an encrypted key combination. We will further test our technology in the pilot starting this spring. As the car brand standing for safety we will assure that this technology is secure when brought to market,” he commented for Help Net Security.

In case your car is stolen using a digital key, you can disable the key. For security reasons, this wouldn’t mean that the car would be brought to an immediate stop. But it will be impossible to start the car again once the engine has been shut down by the driver.


The digital future

Sharing a car will become simpler. Volvo owners will be able to send their digital key to other people via their mobile phones so that they can also use the car.

“We do not aim to ‘end’ the physical car key. Neither do we introduce a new technology just for the sake of technology. First of all this new solution must make our customers’ lives easier, more convenient and save them time,” Heiniger added.

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. On arrival a customer could simply locate the rental car via GPS, unlock it and drive away, avoiding those frustrating queues at airport or train station car rental desks.

Volvo will pilot this technology in spring 2016 via its car sharing firm Sunfleet, stationed at Gothenburg airport, Sweden. A limited number of commercially available cars will be equipped with the new digital key technology in 2017.