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How Apple Car Key Works (and Why It Still Hasn’t Caught On)


Apple Car Key (ACK for short) revolutionizes the concept of leaving home without physical keys, offering the convenience of unlocking and starting vehicles through iPhones and Apple Watches. Despite its innovative potential, the adoption of Apple Car Key has been notably sluggish since its introduction in 2020. The feature’s functionality is contingent upon a limited list of supported vehicles and concerns surrounding digital security.

To utilize the Key, users must ensure compatibility with their car model and possess compatible devices, including iPhone XS or later, iPhone SE (2nd gen or later), or Apple Watch Series 5 or later with updated operating systems. Setup procedures vary depending on the car manufacturer but typically involve associating the user’s account with the vehicle and adding the digital key to the Apple Wallet app.

ACK supports two primary entry methods: passive and proximity. Passive entry automatically unlocks or locks the vehicle based on the user’s proximity. This enables engine ignition with the presence of the iPhone inside the car. Proximity entry functions similarly to traditional keyless entry systems, detecting the user’s device when held near the car door for unlocking. Additionally, the user must hold the iPhone or Apple Watch close to the car’s reader to initiate engine startup.

Supported vehicles encompass a range of models from select manufacturers, including BMW, Hyundai, Kia, Genesis, and Mercedes-Benz. However, the limited number of supported vehicles underscores the slow adoption rate of Apple Car Key within the automotive industry.

The reluctance to embrace ACK is partly attributed to apprehensions regarding digital security. Concerns over potential vulnerabilities to hacking persist despite advancements in encryption technology. Moreover, the absence of standardization across car manufacturers complicates the implementation of digital key systems.

While future advancements may broaden the scope of compatibility, the current landscape sees the usage confined to a select subset of vehicles. As technological and regulatory landscapes evolve, the trajectory of digital key adoption within the automotive industry remains uncertain.
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