Volvo is likely to become the first carmaker to offer its customers a car without a physical key. Instead of keys, future Volvo drivers will use their Bluetooth-enabled smartphones and bring car-sharing concept to a whole new level.
Volvo's innovative Bluetooth-enabled digital key technology was shown for the first time at the Mobile World Congress 2016 (22-25 February) in Barcelona at the Ericsson booth. The mobile app is said to replace the current physical key with a digital one, which is to be stored in a user's smartphone.
The digital key will offer Volvo customers more flexibility, making them consider and benefit from entirely new ways to use and share cars. Everything a physical key is currently capable of doing (locking or unlocking the doors or the boot, starting the engine), the digital key will do as well. On top of that, it will also offer customers the option to receive more than one digital key on their app, allowing them to use different Volvo cars in different locations without having to lose time looking for physical keys.
Using the app, people will be able to book and pay for a rental Volvo in advance anywhere in the world, with the rental company simply sending them the digital car key to their smartphone. For example, you could book a rental Volvo from Paris to be picked up and driven in London. You would then arrive to London and use your GPS system to locate your rental Volvo ''pick-up spot'', unlock it with your digital key and drive away without having to lose precious time waiting in queues at airport or train station car rental desks. The digital key could also be forwarded to other people via customer's mobile phone, so, for example, family members, friends or co-workers could also use the care hassle-free.
According to Volvo, they say their aim is to make sharing a car simple and convenient. "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," said Henrik Green, Vice President of Product Strategy & Vehicle Line Management at Volvo Cars. "Instead of sitting idle in a parking lot the entire day, cars could be used more often and efficiently by whoever the owner wishes."
This spring, Volvo plans to test the digital key in practice within its car-sharing company Sunfleet, based in Sweden. Next year then, in 2017, the carmaker will offer a limited number of digital key-enabled Volvos to the customers. Physical keys, however, will continue to be available for people who still want to use them.