Apple WWDC: Phone-as-key coming to BMW 5 Series, other brands likely to follow
UPDATE: This article was updated at 4:15 pm. ET on June 22, 2020 to include additional information supplied by the automaker.
During their keynote address at the Worldwide Developers Conference today, Apple revealed that the BMW 5 Series will be getting phone-as-key technology, called CarKey, for the 2021 model year. Additionally, BMW has said that the tech will be available on a board range of models that are manufacturers after July 1, 2020: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, X5, X6, X7, X5M, X6M and Z4. The system will be compatible with iPhone XR, iPhone XS or newer, and Apple Watch Series 5 or newer models.
According to Apple, the technology uses near field communication (NFC) to open the car. Then, drivers will place their phone in the charging pad in order to start the vehicle.
To use, drivers place their phone near the door handle.Photo courtesy of BMW
The digital key is stored in the Secure Element of the phone. It can be disabled via iCloud if a phone is lost and keys can be shared via iMessage.
Apple stresses that the company is working with industry groups to ensure that the technology is able to be universal for vehicles as well as secure.
The news came as Apple unveiled a variety of features as part of iOS 14. The phone-as-key functionality will be available on iOS 14 and Apple will be updating iOS 13 to make it available to users of that system as well.
This is a big step for Apple. Until iOS 14, the company had locked its NFC chip making phone-as-key functionality unusable to all but Tesla owners because Tesla uses Bluetooth technology to connect phone with vehicle. In the Tesla app, users do not have the ability to disable their phone-as-key functionality, instead having to contact Tesla Support to assistance.
Car owners can also share access to their car with up to five people via the car's operating system or Apple Wallet. Additionally, owners may set specific parameters for teen drivers including restrictions of top speed, horsepower, and maximum radio volume,
Lincoln and Hyundai are among the automakers using NFC technology in their vehicles giving owners the ability to forego a traditional key fob. Hyundai showed this technology off in its "Smaht Pahk" commercial during the Super Bowl this year and a subsequent follow-up spot where an owner passes a digital key to their parent so the parents can drive their car.
Proximity plays a role in phone-as-key technology as the tech components have to be able to "read" each other's signals.Photo courtesy of BMW
CarKey can operate for up to five hours after an iPhone's batter is depleted to the point where the phone automatically turns off. The system is Apple Watch compatible.
The redesigned 2021 BMW 5 Series comes in seven variants. The revisions to the model bring it fully up to date without going so far as to give the 5 Series the same bucktoothed aesthetics that BMW put into the new 4 Series.
In addition to its new 5 Series, BMW recently showed off the new, next-gen plug-in hybrid variant of the SUV, the 2021 BMW xDrive45e. That new SUV comes with increased all-electric driving range, a significant horsepower bump, and a 7,200-pound towing capacity.
The 2021 BMW 5 Series will arrive on dealership lots in July.
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