Hyundai has announced plans to introduce new ‘digital key’ technology on future models, allowing drivers to unlock and start their car via a smartphone. Selected new cars will start offering technology in 2019. Users will download the digital key as an app, with each car allowing up to four authorised devices.

The system uses highly secure Near Field Communication (NFC) technology, with antennas fitted in the front door handles and in a wireless charging pad inside the car. Users unlock the car by bringing an authorised smartphone close to the door, then start the car by placing it on the charging pad and pressing a start/stop button.

The vehicle will also recognise each user’s preferred settings, such as the position of mirrors, seats and the steering wheel, as well as controls for the audio, video and navigation systems, and the head-up display.

Mike Song, Hyundai’s Head of Operations for the Middle East and Africa, stated:

This is a practical application of Hyundai’s connected vehicle technology to create new, genuinely useful functions. Not only will people be able to use their smartphone in place of a key, but they will also be able to authorise other drivers simply by sharing the app, without having to keep track of multiple sets of car keys.’

Hyundai To Introduce Smartphone-Based Digital Key On New Cars

When sharing the car, a Hyundai owner will be able to limit the functions available for each digital key. This could include placing a time-limit for when the key will expire or setting an alert to warn the owner if the car is being driven too fast or is outside a designated area.

As well as offering convenience for drivers, the new technology also recognises the changing nature of mobility and car ownership, such as the growing popularity of car-sharing schemes. Once car-sharing becomes more widespread, the digital key will be further programmed to support hassle-free vehicle rental, so the owner and driver can share a key without needing to meet in person.

Conventional or card-type keys will still be provided for those times when sharing the digital key would be impractical, such as when leaving the car in a repair workshop or valet parking.

NFC is a form of Radio Frequency Identification (RFI) with high levels of security, data transmission only taking place when the device and reader are no more than a few centimetres apart. It is the same technology used for contactless payments via a smartphone.

Ho Yoo, Group Leader of Hyundai Motor Group’s Electronics Development Group, said:

The Digital Key will benefit a very wide range of future Hyundai customers, as well as enabling innovative new schemes for vehicle sharing. We are studying other ways to harness this type of connected-car technology to greatly enhance the driving and ownership experience.’

Hyundai has also outlined plans to be the first car company to introduce smart fingerprint technology that allows drivers to unlock and start the car. Announced late in 2018, fingerprint technology will be introduced for selected markets on the new-generation Santa Fe to be launched during the first quarter of 2019.