Google's Pixel 6 smartphone is generating a lot of buzz ahead of next week's event. However, the launch could also see the official debut of Androids digital vehicle key support.
Although we've known for some time that Android 12 has digital car keys, an update to Google Play Services discovered by XDA Developers suggests that you will soon be able to add your car keys to your phone. Multiple lines of code are included in the update. Some of them may be related to NFC for unlocking cars.
Also, the code suggests that the feature will be limited in scope. This is to be expected considering Google has a tendency to launch new capabilities in select markets first before launching them everywhere.
Users will see prompts to set up the digital car key feature once it starts rolling out. Before you can use the digital car key feature, you will need to install it.
Google revealed that it would adopt digital car keys at Google I/O. This was when it extended its Fast Pair functionality. It uses Bluetooth Low Energy to quickly locate previously paired devices. However, the company did not say when digital car keys could be used. Google worked with car manufacturers in order to make the digital key possible using UWB (ultra wideband) tech and NFC. Ultra-wideband can be used at 100 feet and is being added to premium vehicles and smartphones. NFC, on the other hand, has a shorter range and requires that you tap your phone on an access point. It's similar to having a wireless keyfob that unlocks a car at a distance or a metal key.
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Rumours are swirling that the official launch of digital car keys will take place at Google's Oct. 19 launch event. Most likely, Google's premium model, Pixel 6 Pro will include support for UWB unlocking.
Google and Apple have been teasing the possibility of unlocking your car with just a smartphone for a while. Although the UWB technology which enables it is only available to a few Android devices, Apples been bundling the technology in the iPhone 11 since then. Google has only named BMW as a partner, but that could change. While digital car keys may not be perfect substitutes for physical keys, this is the first sign that you will soon be able leave your house with only a smartphone.