What is a Digital Key and Which Cars Use Them?

Have you heard of digital key technology for cars? They’re a convenient, helpful tool for car owners who always have a smart device in their possession. Are you tired of carrying keys, a wallet, and a phone? Making purchases with your smartphone is possible, and thanks to advancing tech, operating your car is too. What is a digital key, and which cars use them?

What is a digital key?

What is a digital key and which cars use them? This technology is safer and more convenient than ever.
Person Using Smartphone | Shutterstock

Firstly, a digital key allows car owners to lock and unlock their vehicles using their smartphones. According to KBB, the phone is also a full-fledged key for many automakers. In short, that means it’ll lock, unlock, and start your car’s ignition. The phone becomes your key fob, which is perfect if you lose your keys all the time. Owners need to download the car manufacturer’s app to access their keys. Many are manageable through Apple, Samsung, and Google “wallet” systems on smartphones.

Why do you need a digital key on your phone? The main benefits are reducing your pocket load and in case of an emergency. Those who lose their physical key fob will often find it easier to use their phone instead of locating the key. This locking and unlocking technology is standard with some vehicles but not on many others. Usually, it requires owners to pay a monthly or yearly fee to use the service.

How does a digital key work?

The Nissan Titan can use digital key technology.

To sum up, digital keys are downloaded through the manufacturer’s app; then, you connect via Bluetooth. You’ll need to hold the phone to the car’s door, and it will lock or unlock. Although with technological advancements recently, some vehicles don’t even require the user to hold the phone close to the door. However, you’ll still have to be near the car as a safety precaution.

Additionally, owners don’t need to remove the phone from their bag or pocket to use the digital key. It’ll function just like a hands-free key fob for locking and unlocking. Other devices, like an Apple Watch, can also lock and unlock your vehicle. Models like the Honda Passport also allow users to remote start the SUV from their smartphone.

Is using a digital key safe?

Red 2022 Tesla Model 3, take your smartphone only on the road to use your digital key.
2022 Tesla Model 3 | Tesla

According to Car Connectivity Consortium, mobile devices create and store digital keys in secure places. In addition, security was recently upgraded to use ultra-wideband technology. As a result, vehicles are safer from potential security threats. Furthermore, some automakers, like BMW, use this tech for “Digital Key Plus,” which prevents relay attacks or digital information interception.

However, not all vehicles use UWB, which is problematic. When shopping for a new car, it might include finding one with high-level security for its smartphone unlocking system. Preventing others from unlocking or operating your vehicle with their phone is imperative.

Which cars use digital keys?

Not every automaker is using digital keys yet. However, there are a lot more available than you might’ve realized. It’s a fairly underutilized feature as of 2022. Here’s every manufacturer with available digital keys.

AutomakerAvailable on every model as of 2020?
AudiYes
AcuraYes
BMWYes
BuickYes
CadillacYes
ChevroletYes
ChryslerYes
DodgeYes
FiatNo
FordNo
GenesisNo
GMCYes
HondaNo
HyundaiNo
InfinitiNo
JeepYes
KiaNo
Land RoverYes
LexusYes
MazdaYes
Mercedes-BenzYes
MiniYes
NissanNo
PorscheYes
RamYes
SubaruNo
ToyotaNo
VolkswagenNo
VolvoNo

In conclusion, digital keys are an excellent way to unlock or lock your car without a key fob. Using your smartphone is much easier if the real key is lost or just too far out of reach. Additionally, some automakers offer the ability to start the vehicle, even remotely, using your phone. Digital keys are an excellent convenience feature that will undoubtedly grow in popularity sooner than later.

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