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Volvo wants to sell cars without physical keys

by Brandon Russell | February 19, 2016February 19, 2016 7:00 am PDT

Lost your car keys? Man, that sucks. Would be nice if you didn’t even need a key to get into your car. Starting in 2017, that’s exactly what Volvo is going to do. The automaker won’t only allow customers to get into their cars with a new app, but Volvo says it won’t offer physical keys at all (if that’s what customers want).

Volvo says customers can submit an application for their mobile phone to replace their car’s physical key via Bluetooth. Customers just need to download a Volvo app, and, once enabled, they’ll be able to lock and unlock their car, and even start it. Volvo says these digital keys can be shared among family members, too, so your car’s life won’t be dependent on just a single phone.

“Our innovative digital key technology has the potential to completely change how a Volvo can be accessed and shared,” said Henrik Green, Vice President Product Strategy & Vehicle Line Management at Volvo Cars. “Instead of sitting idle in a parking lot the entire day, cars could be used more often and efficiently by whoever the owner wishes.”

Volvo talks a lot about the potential for sharing these digital keys among people, which to me sounds a little dangerous. I imagine there will be an “owner” who can revoke access to sharing, but what if the master key is stolen? Can it be changed? What if a phone is lost? So many questions, so few answers.

Volvo says it plans on piloting the technology in—where else?—Sweden later this year, and will offer a limited number of commercially available cars with the digital key technology in 2017. If you are old and boring and want a physical key instead, customers can request them, according to Volvo.

The automaker will demonstrate this technology at Mobile World Congress next week, where hopefully we’ll learn more details about how Volvo plans to execute this technology on a wider scale.

Brandon Russell

Brandon Russell enjoys writing about technology and entertainment. When he's not watching Back to the Future, you can find him on a hike or watching...