Ready for the cemetery.

Why the driver is becoming the grave digger of the car key.

Apps instead of Keys.

Open doors without having to first of all look for it. Start the motor without fumbling around with the ignition. Drivers of current vehicles basically only need to have their car key with Keyless Go in their jacket pocket; the modern variation has never seen the inside of a mechanical lock anyway. But its main competition is also sitting there: The smartphone. Apps have technically caught up with the key, actually overtaken it. With the BMW Remote Services, the air conditioning can be set from far away via smartphone or Wearables, or the vehicle can be locked. This convenient format has been used for a long time by customers of the two largest carsharing providers car2go and DriveNow to find a vehicle, reserve it and get in. With the E class series 213, Mercedes-Benz has gone even one step further: Via Mercedes me, the car can drive away, and the set of keys stays deposited at home.

Volvo dares to exit.

Volvo is making it known that it wants to completely do away with car keys in its future fleet of vehicles. Similarly to buying software, owners only receive a digital product key. Once entered in the Volvo app, you just drive away. Another key: The digital vehicle key can be shared as often as you like if, for example the vehicle is lent to a friend. With just one click, the access authorization is transferred to the receiver’s device. That way, every Volvo is accessible to the global community; market-adapted car sharing made easy.

Key in survival mode.

The key is fighting against further loss of significance and developing into more of a multifunctional design and accessory object. The Berlin company, Noblekey, is taking this to the limit: For this, only Bart and electronic internals of the original are taken over and then, depending on what is wanted, crafted with gold, diamonds or high-grade wood into an individual key, for up to EUR 30,000. This is even more applicable to the masses. We remember: A word from Michael Knight to his wrist watch was enough, and K.I.T.T. turned the corner.

What enthralled the public in the TV series, “Knight Rider” is now being used by Jaguar, at least in the first steps. With the Activity Key, the British traditionalist is offering its customers a desideratum for style icons: If you don’t like to have the key with you during recreation activities, you can have a water-resistant band styled like a trendy fitness wristband with an integrated transponder instead.

Display key – the latest surge.

The key is taking on a multitude of functions. A payment function and an alcohol sensor are dapper add-ons. But also storing electronic data like train tickets or reserved hotel rooms can be programmed. The app says hello. Fittingly, the display key has ignited lots of publicity for the i8 and the new 7-series as well as the 5-series generation of BMW. The key is inductively charged when it is placed in the designated hollow in the center console. A highlight is the 2.2-inch touchscreen that gives information about the fill-level of the tank and the current range and can park and unpark the vehicle. The result was, however, not a key but rather a remote control that hardly fits in a pants pocket like the increasingly larger smartphones. Large movie theatre versus convenience.

My key is my castle.

Let’s look back: Security was actually the original idea for the key. We lock up what is precious to us. And this since the Bronze Age. Against misuse, theft, vandalism. The key is a proven anachronism for property, access and authentication. Its successors have blatant weaknesses. With the rise of auto apps, experts see dangerous gateways for digital gangsters. How to create more security? Biometric solutions are the ultimate alternative and the nail in the coffin for current access systems. After all, eyes, vein structure, finger prints and faces are distinctive. There are, for example, no people with identical finger prints. And you always have them with you.

I am the key.

Access systems based on biometric elements already exist. Thus, the driver in this case will be able to start the motor only by authentication with a finger print sensor. Its electrodes unequivocally capture in split seconds the line ends, branches and swirls of the finger tips and compare them with stored data records. A closed-circuit camera recognizes the face of the driver, activates individual settings such as seat and mirror position, music, temperature or navigation. As already seen with FF 91 from Faraday with a camera in the centre column.

My house, my boat, my vehicle – a thought key for everything.

The access to the vehicle by transfer of thought would be the next step: Why not use sensors to measure brain waves, which could differentiate between wave patterns for direction commands like “on”, “to” and “drive”. And that’s the best for all lock systems – for at home, for the office, for the yacht, for the garage. In other words, a biometric digital universal key for all life situations. With this, we would also ultimately carry the key ring to the grave. R.I.P.

Authors: Christian Geiss and Oliver Jesgulke