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Is the humble car key on its way out?

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Is the humble car key on its way out?

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Of the many wonders and innovations at last week’s Frankfurt Auto Show, one key concept stood out for me. BMW and it’s question of whether the car key still has a place in our lives.

 
As you would imagine at their home auto show, BMW had quite a presence. Lots of cars, lots of smiling people and lots of shiny things on display. The one thing that caught a lot of attention was a statement by BMW sales chief Ian Robertson about the end of the car key. It has been widely quoted since in the motoring press because it offers an interesting insight into the near future of driving.
 
He said (about car keys), ‘Honestly, how many people really need it?. They never take it out of their pocket, so why do I need to carry it around? We are looking at whether it is feasible, and whether we can do it. Whether we do it right now or at some point in the future, remains to be seen’.
 
Keyless entry and ignition
Keyless entry and ignition has been an optional features for many years and is now a standard feature on many higher trims. As long as you have the key on you somewhere, the car detects it and lets you enter. The immobilizer is unlocked and you can be on your way with a simple push of the button.
 
It does beg the question, why have a key at all? Aside from the odd occasion when the proximity detector doesn’t pick up the key, why would you need it? Tesla allows you to use your smartphone and other automakers will likely follow. So will the car key soon be a thing of the past?
 
I’m not so sure. It seems all areas of industry and consumer product manufacture want to put the smartphone at the centre of everything, but should they? I don’t think so. Cell phone batteries run out, aren’t particularly reliable, phones break, get forgotten, have spotty Bluetooth, NFC or cell reception and are not yet reliable enough to centre our lives around. At least in my opinion. 
 
While it is just as easy to lose or forget a car key, anything that uses a cell phone for control is inherently insecure. Until mobile security is improved and hackers are locked out of our phones, using them to control big ticket items such as cars or houses is a mistake. Unless you use two-factor authentication or other security that cannot be activated remotely, I don’t believe there is enough trust in phones to control $50k worth of BMW let alone a cheaper car.
 
What do you think? Is a cell phone the way forward for unlocking your pride and joy?

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