Keyless: Car keys can be a pain in the neck

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Something which has been the norm in car sharing clubs for quite some time could soon also be used by private car owners. This is because smartphone apps are likely to be used in the future to provide drivers with keyless access to their own vehicles. And that’s not all.

Who hasn’t had this happen to them? The car key isn’t in its usual place in the morning or is suddenly nowhere to be found after visiting a restaurant. Then there’s the issue that current locking systems are easy to tamper with.

Just under two thirds of respondents to a recent Bosch survey said they still use a remote control locking mechanism. 16% already unlock their cars with a keyless mechanism, which automatically opens the doors as the driver approaches the vehicle. Yet almost all (remote control locking mechanism 87% and keyless locking system 78%) believe that their “key” is secure. However, one in five admitted that they had been the victim of car theft or hacking or knew someone else who had been.

Instead of “insecure” data transmission via LF and UHF technology, a new Bosch solution therefore uses a smartphone as a virtual key and Bluetooth as the transmission technology. This is because the signal cannot be intercepted this way. And, in addition to the added security, drivers will also find it significantly easier to use and will benefit from a whole range of services.

Going keyless with a smartphone

The idea makes sense. After all, smartphones have become the modern-day Swiss Army knife. As such, 46% of male respondents and 32% of female respondents said they would like to have a digital locking concept via their smartphones. More than half of users of modern keyless entry systems (54%) can imagine replacing their key with an app. After all, standard keyless entry systems still require drivers to carry the convenience key with them.

That is not the case with the Bosch locking system. It also promises to offer a range of other advantages. First of all, the driver must connect their vehicle with their smartphone via an app whereby a unique security key is created for the vehicle’s digital lock. The system then measures the relevant distance to the smartphone via a wireless connection with the car’s built-in sensors and identifies the security key. When the driver is less than two meters away from the car, the door unlocks as if by magic. After the car has been unlocked, a stored profile containing personalized mirror and seat position settings is automatically loaded. Once the driver is sitting inside the vehicle with their smartphone, all they need to do to start the engine is press the Start/Stop button. When the driver leaves the vehicle, the same procedures are executed, only in reverse. When the driver is more than two meters away with their smartphone, the car automatically locks itself. The system then sends a corresponding confirmation message to the smartphone.

If the driver loses their smartphone containing the app, they can deactivate the digital key online. Access to the vehicle will then be denied both for authorized and unauthorized individuals. In the meantime as a stop-gap solution and also if the driver’s smartphone battery dies, they can always use the classic vehicle key.

Keyless Go with NFC

Similar systems with smartphone apps and comparable features are available from other suppliers and car manufacturers. Whilst Tesla (in the Model 3) and Continental also use Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), Hyundai, Kia and Mercedes use NFC (Near Field Communication) as their wireless standard. Here, the smartphone must be held close to the driver or passenger door handle.

The survey

On behalf of Bosch, the market research company PULS surveyed 1,046 German car drivers aged between 18 and 69 between January 11 and 18, 2019.





Keyless (Image: Bosch)

New keyless locking systems open the “gates” automatically as soon as the driver approaches the car with their smartphone. (Image: Bosch).