Volvo wants to offer cars without keys starting in 2017

Surprise, surprise: your smartphone is involved.

Jonas Ingman @ Bruksbild
Volvo Phone as Key

We applaud Volvo for not sullying its new tech with some corny name like "SmartFob." Yet.

Volvo

Smartphones have become increasingly important to the experience of driving your car, from navigation to entertainment. If Volvo has its way, within the next few years, its importance will rise markedly as it grows to replace your car key.

In lieu of a physical key, Volvo plans to offer a smartphone application that contains a digital car key. It'll let you do everything a physical key does -- open the doors, open the trunk and start the engine. The app will function as a key ring of sorts, so folks can have multiple keys for multiple vehicles at the ready.

Clearly, this kind of tech can be used for more than just personal car ownership. Volvo envisions receiving rental-car keys immediately after reserving one, and a car-sharing economy where multiple people can wield digital keys for the same vehicle.

"Our innovative digital key technology has the potential to completely change how a Volvo can be accessed and shared," said Henrik Green, Volvo's vice president of product strategy. "Instead of sitting idle in a parking lot the entire day, cars could be used more often and efficiently by whomever the owner wishes."

Volvo Car as Key

The act of opening a car door doesn't lend itself to the most creative photography.

Volvo

Luddites will be pleased to know that the company will still continue to offer keys for buyers who want one. Not that this idea is even close to mass production yet -- a pilot program will start this spring, at Gothenburg airport in Sweden, where Volvo operates a car-sharing scheme. Following that, "a limited number of commercially available cars will be equipped with the new digital key technology in 2017," Volvo said in a statement.

Volvo says its tech is "Bluetooth-enabled," but it doesn't go into detail beyond that. If the connection between car and phone is, in fact, based on Bluetooth, it'll be similar to the system that GM will soon use in its car-sharing enterprise, Maven.

It'll be shown off for the first time at this week's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, where we hope to go hands-on with it.

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