This story is part of WWDC 2022, CNET's complete coverage from and about Apple's annual developers conference.
If you're an owner of a recent Tesla, like the Model 3, chances are you've been enjoying the virtual key lifestyle for some time. Now, Apple wants to bring it mainstream, by baking virtual car keys (but not CarKeys) into iOS 14 -- and even iOS 13 -- with BMW as its first partner.
Virtual car keys are just what they sound like: digital keys that allow you to open and unlock your car just by using the NFC chip in recent iPhones. No more fumbling for keys at the bottom of your purse or cargo shorts; just grab your phone and away you go. But, more impressively, virtual keys in your Apple Wallet will enable you to quickly and easily create virtual keys and send them via iMessage, meaning you can give permissions to your kids, parents or friends without having to get a new key cut -- or replaced.
The technology is built on the iPhone's UWB U1 chip, which Apple says will eventually allow all manufacturers to securely and reliably detect the phone's proximity and position, even if it's buried in your purse. But, for now, it'll just be in the new 2021 BMW 5 Series, with other manufacturers coming next year. Given it's part of the Car Connectivity Consortium, it shouldn't take long to spread.
2021 BMW 5 Series: Now with more hybridSee all photos
Again, this is similar functionality to what Tesla currently offers with the Model 3, and what BMW currently offers with Android-based devices. So, not exactly a first, but something we're very glad to see catching on.