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BMW and Apple Are Teaming Up to Turn Your iPhone Into a Car Key

One less item to carry in your pockets, we suppose.

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Update, 6/22/2020: At today’s WWDC conference, Apple and BMW confirmed that both the new iOS 14 and the existing iOS 13 will in fact be able to work as a car key, with the feature rolling out on the 2021 5 Series. The new system enables users to share virtual car keys via Messages, as well as lock and unlock the car by tapping your phone against the door after confirming your identity with Face ID or Touch ID.

Next time you go to kit up before heading out of the house — y’know, loading your everyday carry equipment like wallet, keys and pocketknife into your pockets — take a second to notice the weight of your car keys in your pants. Do they feel awkward or excessive? Is the combined weight of your EDC threatening to overwhelm your belt? Do they feel like you have just one item too many?

Well, if so, BMW and Apple may just have the answer. When the next generation of iOS rolls out later this year, it will apparently include the ability to use your iPhone as a car key.

That’s the word from 9to5mac, which found the code for buried in a beta version of iOS. According to the report, the feature — cleverly dubbed “CarKey” — will be available in iOS 14, which is expected to arrive in the third quarter of 2020; while it’s still unclear exactly what features it’ll feature, 9to5mac‘s deep digging into the technology involved and the known facts has them believing that the CarKey system will enable BMW drivers to lock, unlock, and drive their cars just like a regular key would.

Unlike a regular car key, however, CarKey would also enable users to share their virtual fobs via Messages if they want to give a friend access to their ride; it’d also keep the keys in your phone’s Wallet, enabling you to use Face ID or Touch ID verification to open or start the car.

While the CarKey system, presumably, would eventually roll out to other automakers, the report suggests BMW will be the first car company to offer the tech when it goes live. It’s not a surprising choice, as Bimmer and Apple have partnered to launch automotive technology before; after all, the Bavarian Motor Works was the first brand to offer wireless Apple CarPlay, even if they chose to do so with an irritating subscription-based plan for quite a while.

Now, this isn’t a wholly new idea. Tesla has been offering it on the Model 3 for years; in fact, your Bluetooth-enabled, Tesla app-equipped smartphone is the default key for the car. (A thin NFC chip-enabled card serves as the backup.) Other carmakers like Buick and Volvo don’t go quite as far, but they do offer certain app-based functions, such as the ability to lock and unlock your car via your phone from a distance (assuming, of course, your car has a cellular connection).

If this seems like another case of tech trying to replace something that doesn’t need reinventing, well, you’re not alone. “I feel like you’d have to be insane to do this!” tech editor Eric Limer says of the idea. A fair point; then again, we’re not sure if he’s ever had to grapple with one of BMW’s giant, newfangled LCD screen-packed key fobs.

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