Let's talk about Apple CarKey: Would you trust your phone to unlock your car?
At their recent WWDC event, Apple revealed that iOS 14 will enable you to unlock your car with your phone!
Apple recently announced at their WWDC 2020 event an addition to Apple Wallet called 'CarKey' - a new feature that is being integrated into iOS 14. The car and tech communities have been split regarding whether they think it's a good idea to unlock your car with your phone or not. In this article, we'll be taking a look at both sides of the argument, and deciding whether Apple CarKey is a good idea, or a silly gimmick.
How does it work?
Before we decide whether CarKey is going to be a good idea, let's talk about how it works.
Cars that are compatible with the CarKey feature are currently being produced by Ford and BMW, but more manufacturers will be added in the future after the technology is perfected. These new Ford or BMW cars will feature NFC (Near-Field Communication) chips in the door handles to be able to communicate with your iPhone.
Your digital keys will be stored in your Apple Wallet, which is activated by pressing the Home Button twice on iPhones with a home button, or double-pressing the lock button on the notched-iPhones. You will then be prompted to use Touch ID or Face ID (depending on the phone you have), and tap on the card with your car's model name on it.
Image: BMW Press.
Once this has been authenticated, the user simply has to tap their phone on the door handle, and the car will unlock. The user then has to put their phone on the small charging pad in front of the gear stick, and the car will be able to start via a push-to-start button. Interesting stuff!
This feature will be released in September as a part of iOS 14 and will be compatible with the iPhone XR, iPhone XS/XS Max, iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro/Pro Max, the iPhone SE (2nd Edition) and the Apple Watch Series 5.
In a press release, BMW said "BMW is excited to announce the availability of Digital Key for iPhone in 45 countries for a broad range of models: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, X5, X6, X7, X5M, X6M and Z4 if manufactured after July 1st 2020."
Now, let's take a look at some of the good reasons as to why you would choose to use Apple CarKey!
Firstly, you will no longer be required to take your keys everywhere you go - much like how Apple Pay doesn't force you to take your credit card with you everywhere. Most people carry their mobile phones with them anyway, so using this feature means there is one less thing that you have to carry with you.
Another benefit to using Apple CarKey is the ability to share your keys with other family members via iMessage. Instead of driving to your local dealership, iMessage will securely send the key to a contact of your choice. The original key owner can set restrictions on the key, or give full access; meaning some family members may only be granted permission to unlock the car, while others may be granted access to unlock the car, and drive it!
The security of CarKey is stored in the internals of the iPhone where all of your personal, private data is stored, such as the 'Health' app's information. This means that the data from your car is in a secure vault, making it extremely unlikely that hackers can access your car.
Finally, CarKey gives users the option to turn off your keys remotely via iCloud if you were to lose your phone, or if anything else were to happen!
The key to your car is now stored in the Apple Wallet, alongside your credit cards, debit cards and old plane tickets you never deleted! Image: BMW Press.
Overall, Apple Carkey has a lot of positives in the form of giving extra convenience to car owners - but is it a good enough replacement for regular keys?
As with all new features, there are some negative points that can be considered with Apple's latest feature.
Firstly, what would happen if your phone died while you were out, and you didn't have your keys or a power-bank on you? Would you have to go to a store and ask for a charger? Would you be completely stuck? Emily Schubert, a senior manager for Apple's Car Experience Engineering claims that this is a feature that means you can leave your keys at home - though it doesn't seem to be a risk I would be willing to take! Obviously there is the user responsibility that they should charge their phone up before they leave the house; but it is still a factor to consider as phones can be used in all sorts of different ways.
Furthermore, what implications would there be if your iCloud account was hacked, perhaps due to an insecure password? Could the hacker remove keys from the account and leave you stranded? Could a hacker send themselves a key? Make sure your passwords are secure, everyone!
Another issue that could be found with Apple CarKey is the ability for signals to be intercepted. While we don't know exactly how the feature is coded (and we likely won't, since Apple would never release this information publicly), it is unknown whether the NFC signals are going to be encrypted or not. Since privacy is important for Apple, I expect the signals are encrypted; but what would a hacker be able to do if they intercepted a signal with their own NFC reader? Would they be able to unlock the car by re-sending these signals? Perhaps the app re-rolls a random number so that every time your car is unlocked via CarKey, a different signal is used? As I said, we will never know how this works, but we have seen hackers steal signals from physical keys in the past - we'll have to wait and see what happens when the feature is released to the world.
To close things off, I would like to mention a conversation I had with a family member when we were discussing CarKey after the Keynote. My family member asked 'What would happen if someone attacked you in the street? They could attack you and force you to scan your finger or face and steal your car!'
And while this is a valid point to be concerned about, you can also argue that CarKey would be more safe in this situation. If someone attacked you and took your keys, this person would be able to unlock and drive your car whenever they wanted to. Whereas, the CarKey feature would require you finger or face to be scanned to unlock the car every time, which is not something they could do even if they stole your car and phone.
And to conclude, my honest thoughts are that CarKey seems to be a bit of a gimmick. While the concept is useful, I can't see myself leaving my house without my keys - just in case my phone dies. Sure, this feature may be useful if you are taking a quick drive to the shop or into town; but I wouldn't rely on this feature for everyday driving...
Thank you for reading - be sure to let me know what you think of CarKey by voting in the above poll, as well as leaving a comment below! If you enjoyed this article and would like to see more from me, click here to see my profile. Why not check out my recent post 'Introducing the SCV12: Lamborghini's limited edition hypercar' by clicking here? Remember to stay safe, and stay inside.