Digital car key feature is coming with Android 12

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Last year, Apple announced CarKey, a way to unlock your car with your iPhone. Today Google is following suit – the company just announced that Android 12 will include digital car key technology that will allow you to lock, unlock and start your car. Google says the feature uses Ultra Wideband (UWB) technology so you can unlock your car without even taking your phone out of your pocket – provided, of course, that your phone has a UWB chip. If not, you can unlock a car with NFC by tapping your phone. You can also share your virtual car key with family and friends if they also need access to your car.

Google says digital car keys will be available on “select” Pixel and Samsung Galaxy phones later this year, but we don’t know yet which models they have in mind. But no Pixel phones have yet used UWB technology – perhaps with this new car key feature, the Pixel 6 will be the first. Apple uses UWB in the iPhone 11 and 12 series of phones, enabling things like AirTags, enhanced transfer functions between the iPhone and HomePod mini, and the aforementioned CarKey feature, among others.

Obviously, car manufacturers will need to enable this feature, and cars will need the technology to support this feature, so it will take a while for it to become common practice to unlock your car with your phone. As with Apple’s CarKey technology, BMW is the first partner to be announced by Google, but the company says it will also be partnering with other unnamed automakers.

Google also announced a feature that should be more useful immediately. The company’s Fast Pair technology, which makes it faster to connect to Bluetooth devices, is coming to BMW and Ford cars. Hopefully, this will make pairing your phone to a car as easy as pairing with Google’s Pixel Buds headphones – connecting your phone to most cars is definitely more hassle than it should be.

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