Following an announcement last month, Mercedes-Benz has started implementing Apple’s Car Key feature in the new E-Class models. The function, which the car company itself calls “Digital Vehicle Key”, allows the sedan to be opened and closed with an iPhone or Apple Watch. The leaker @aaronp613 had on Twitter references mentioned in the backend codeshowing that the feature is now going live.
Still little interest in the industry
Car Key is very useful because it eliminates the need for users to carry their car keys with them. It’s part of Apple’s wallet initiatives, which are already replacing hotel keys, driver’s licenses, and ID cards — albeit only in some regions. Bluetooth and ultra-wideband radio technology (UWB) are used to carry out the authentication. In the vehicle sector, however, the industry’s interest has so far been limited.
Hyundai, Kia, Genesis, BMW and the Chinese e-car group BYD are currently participating, and Lotus is said to be preparing the feature. The new E-Class is now the first Mercedes-Benz vehicle to feature Car Key. The function is part of the “KEYLESS-GO Comfort Package”, said the Stuttgart carmaker – so it costs extra.
What the Car Key can do in the E-Class
The digital key can do more than an analogue one: It is possible to share it with up to 16 people – via AirDrop, iMessage or other communication services. The vehicle owner can assign various rights, such as specifying that a person can only open the car and not drive it. The Car Key completely replaces the regular key. Internet access is required for setup. The function can then also be used offline, so there is no problem in underground car parks, for example. Mercedes uses both Bluetooth and UWB. The latter should be particularly safe because it only transmits over short distances.
The function can also be revoked quickly, for example if a device has been stolen. According to Mercedes-Benz, this is possible both in the Apple Wallet or in the car infotainment system MBUX (Internet access required). Apple recently released its own app called Car Key Tests, which car manufacturers can use to test how best to implement the function. The company apparently hopes that more manufacturers will access it. Car Key was implemented in a first vehicle in the summer of 2021 – at that time BMW was the first company.
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