In the future, you'll be able to unlock your Hyundai car, start its engine, and more with little more than your NFC-enabled smartphone. Using the new(known here in the States as the Elantra GT) as its Connectivity Concept test platform, Hyundai showed off a variety of wireless technologies that it hopes to implement as early as 2015.
According to Hyundai, "the Connectivity Concept allows the user to lock and unlock the car by placing their smartphone over an NFC-tag (near-field communication), negating the need for a traditional key fob." Upon entering the vehicle, placing the phone in the center console allows the car to be started. Meanwhile, a wireless charging pad built into the console keeps the phone juiced while you drive. NFC was selected by the Car Tech editors as the "Most promising future tech" as part of our with this very implementation in mind.
However, as promising as this sounds, NFC only has a maximum effective range of about 4 inches. (In practice, I've found the range is usually much shorter, requiring practically direct contact.) This means that you'll have to take your phone out of your pocket to use it. The smart key fobs already widely used in keyless entry and start systems have a much wider operating range and don't require that you remove the fob from your pocket to unlock and start the car. So, while you gain the ability to combine two devices to save space in your pocket, you'll lose the hands-free convenience of current smart keyless entry. Unless you're the sort of person who always has your phone in-hand and at-the-ready, you'll be trading one minor inconvenience for another. These are truly first-world problems, right?
However, Hyundai didn't stop at replacing your keys with your smartphone and has added other useful features to the Connectivity Concept's mix. For those households with multiple drivers, the smartphone will also be the key to your unique driver profile, storing data such as music, phone contacts, radio station preferences, and other profile settings that can be accessed and fine-tuned with the i30's touch-screen interface. In a more well-equipped vehicle (perhaps a futureor ?), data such as your automatic climate control settings, the power-adjustable seat position, and exterior mirror settings could be also be stored as part of a driver profile on your phone.
The final piece of the Connectivity Concept's puzzle is the implementation of MirrorLink technology. This smartphone connectivity protocol will allow users to take advantage of car-centric apps already present on the paired smartphone to bring, for example, your favorite navigation and data-streaming apps to the touch screen on the dashboard where they can be more safely and legally used.
It is realistic that the features touted by the Connectivity Concept could be implemented by the 2015 estimate made by Hyundai. My guess is that MirrorLink, wireless charging, and some form of the phone-based driver profiles will definitely make an appearance in the next generation of Hyundai cars. NFC for Bluetooth pairing may also make an appearance, but using the short-range wireless tech for vehicle entry and start doesn't really appear to offer much benefit over the currently used smart key fob technology.
What do you think? Would you replace your car keys with your smartphone?