Volvo recently announced their plan to start producing cars without a key or fob, replacing them with a smartphone app that automatically unlocks/locks your doors and start your car through Bluetooth. Volvo’s in house app will also tell you the status of your vehicle including estimated distance left until the tank is empty, and it gives you the ability to remotely control the interior temperature of the car.
This technology also grants owners a way to share their vehicle with others by sending them a virtual key through the app. That would greatly benefit single-car families by removing the need to manage multiple keys. The owner can add or remove access to their vehicle for others at any time.
For some, the concept sounds great and should be adopted in all future vehicles. But for us, we see a couple problems. Our first question is, “What happens if your phone dies?” Your phone “dying” could occur in two ways, either it shuts off from running out of battery power or it breaks to the point where it cannot be used anymore. Volvo is hopeful that battery technology improves so that our devices can go longer without needing to be charged again, that way people don’t get stuck away from home with a dead phone and a car that won’t start. Besides the phone running out of power, these devices are pretty fragile and may need to be replaced without warning.
So what if the phone dies permanently? Will you be stuck indefinitely until you get a replacement if you didn’t share a virtual key with a friend? It’d make it pretty difficult to drive and get a replacement phone from your local store if you have no physical key to fall back to.
Our other concern is how secure is this technology? The fact that the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee could be remotely hacked and controlled made headlines, and for good reason. Further increasing the opportunity for hackers to attack our cars seems like risky business.
WIRED released a video demonstrating how hack-able a 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee was. This led to Fiat-Chrysler recalling over 1.4 million vehicles.
Hopefully Volvo is vigilant with testing the security of their app and the cars themselves so that doesn’t happen. We do understand that certain modern features can be nice, but this is one that we can’t get behind. Tell us what you think. Would you give up your keys entirely for a cell phone app?