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Is Volvo right to kill the traditional car key?

Smartphone app to replace your Volvo’s physical key by 2017. Tin foil hats at the ready

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Volvo wants you to bin your car key. Not right now, but from 2017, which is when the Swedish carmaker will start offering its customers the option of buying its cars with no physical key. Instead, you’ll unlock the doors, start the engine, and do all the other, er, keyish stuff via a smartphone app that communicates with your V90, XC90 or whatever via Bluetooth.

For Volvo, the benefits are plentiful. Less bulk in your pocket. The ability to share cars far more easily – if you’ve booked a holiday hire car, for example, you could simply exit the airport, find the car’s tagged location via GPS then stride up to it and tap your phone to get on your way. No waiting around for key handover, either when you arrive, jet-lagged and throbbing with DVT, or when you’re late for the final boarding call on the way home. 

Alternatively, families could all access the same car via their phones, without needing to meet to exchange keys. There is logic here in this brave new Minority Report world.

There’s added security too. If someone pickpockets your car keys, your wheels are effectively in their (illegal) possession. But if your car’s got no key, and demands a smartphone to be unlocked, that’s a different story. Sure, the unpalatable individual could pinch your phone, but what if you’re using a passcode, or fingerprint recognition to unlock it? Better luck next time, crims.

“Our innovative digital key technology has the potential to completely change how a Volvo can be accessed and shared,” explains Volvo’s Henrik Green. “Instead of sitting idle in a parking lot the entire day, cars could be used more often and efficiently by whoever the owner wishes.”

The technology will be piloted in spring 2016 via its car-sharing firm Sunfleet, stationed at Gothenburg airport, Sweden. Though the company said it would still offer actual physical keys to those customers who want them.

We await your verdict on Volvo’s literal ‘keyless entry’. What do you reckon, TG.commers: good idea or bad idea?

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