Apple CarKey to replace car keys, CarPlay gets an upgrade

The days of needing your keys, phone, and wallet are about to be over thanks to Apple.

On Monday at the Silicon Valley-based tech company’s World Wide Developer Conference, Apple announced CarKey as part of the iOS 14.0 iPhone operating system, which is scheduled for release this fall. An update of iOS 13 will support the feature as well. 

An iPhone with the iOS 14.0 operating system and CarKey will use the phone’s NFC chip to act as the vehicle’s key signal. The first vehicle to work with CarKey will be the 2021 BMW 5-Series, thanks to a partnership between Apple and BMW. Other vehicles and automakers will offer CarKey next year. The 5-Series was also the first vehicle with wireless Apple CarPlay

Users will hold their Apple NFC-equipped device, such as an iPhone or Apple Watch, next to the vehicle’s NFC reader, typically in the vehicle’s door handle, and will then authenticate via Face ID or Touch ID to unlock the vehicle. The process can be slimmed down with an Express Mode that side-steps authentication.

Apple CarKey

Apple CarKey

Users will be able to share vehicle access with others via iMessage to allow others to lock, unlock, and start their vehicles. Shared CarKeys can restrict vehicle features so teens or other untrustworthy friends can’t use certain vehicle functions. If a user loses their phone, they can turn off their keys remotely.

Apple noted that, in the future, CarKey will move away from NFC and rely on a more standardized U1 ultra-wideband chip for connectivity with a vehicle. Once enabled, the UWB1 chip will allow the vehicle to detect the device within an undefined proximity, so users won’t have to remove phones from their pockets or purses when Express Mode is enabled.

Some automakers offer digital keys with similar capabilities, but these apps aren’t baked into the iOS operating system and require different apps for different vehicles.

Apple CarPlay iOS 14

Apple CarPlay iOS 14

Apple CarPlay will be enhanced in iOS 14 with the ability to add custom wallpapers, show electric-car chargers in Apple Maps, and add categories for parking apps and fast-food takeout apps.


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