Volvo has announced that it will be the first car manufacturer to introduce keyless vehicles that won't require a fob to access and start.
The cars, which will be trialled this spring, will instead unlock via Bluetooth technology using a smartphone, completely removing the need for a physical key for the first time. New "digital key" codes will be downloaded to users' phones.
Volvo says this will fundamentally change the way we own and use cars, allowing owners to share codes with family members and friends via the associated app over the internet, should they wish to borrow the car at any time.
It will also make the process of renting cars simpler, according to Volvo, by removing the need to queue up for a physical key at a kiosk. After booking a rental car anywhere in the world, customers would have the digital key delivered to their phone immediately. The phone could also guide the customer to the rental car via GPS.
Henrik Green of Volvo Cars, said: “At Volvo we are not interested in technology for the sake of technology. New technology has to make our customers’ lives easier and save them time. Mobility needs are evolving and so are our customers’ expectation to access cars in an uncomplicated way.
“Our innovative digital key technology has the potential to completely change how a Volvo can be accessed and shared. Instead of sitting idle in a parking lot the entire day, cars could be used more often and efficiently by whoever the owner wishes.”
Until now, "keyless" cars have still required a designated fob to be within signal range of the vehicle for it to be unlocked. For the vehicle to start via a push button, the key usually has to be inside the vehicle. The technology can add convenience by removing the need to rummage around in the bottom of a bag for a physical key.
Volvo says it is a pioneer in this field. In 2015 the Swedish premium car maker launched a digital key system that allowed online shopping to be delivered directly to the car, by providing a one-time code to a delivery company.
However, keyless cars have been in the news for all the wrong reasonsover the last couple of years as thieves have been able to bypass the security systems using electronic devices that can be bought on the internet for as little as £10. Volvo says that customers wishing to opt out of the digital key technology will be giving a traditional fob.
The keyless technology will be trialled this spring via its car sharing firm Sunfleet, stationed at Gothenburg airport, Sweden. A limited number of commercially available cars will be equipped with the new digital key technology in 2017.