Apple is moving into the car business in a very big way, if a newly discovered leak is any indication.

The folks over at 9to5Mac have discovered a feature called CarKey in the latest iOS 13.4 beta. The feature will allow you to use your iPhone or Apple Watch to start your car and turn it off, according to the report.

Yes, you read that correctly. Apple is working on a technology, baked inside iOS, that will let you toss aside your physical car key and use your Apple device instead.

So, how does it work?

According to 9to5Mac, the feature works with any car that has near-field communication. You pair the Apple devices with the car, and from your Wallet app in the iPhone or Apple Watch, you can turn the car on and off. Interestingly, it won't require Face ID, so it will even work when your iPhone or Apple Watch don't have battery life left.

Apple also appears to be considering a way to make CarKey work with friends and family. From the Wallet app, according to the report, you'll be able to send a virtual key to another person and they can use that a set number of times to operate your car.

Of course, there are real security implications to this. For one, you'll need to be really sure that your car is secure. According to the report, you'll need to have your car maker's app installed on your device in order to use the CarKey function. So, if someone tries to access your car from their phone, they won't be able to.

That said, if they technically stole your phone and found a way to get into it and activate the Wallet app, they could seemingly start your car.

Of course, the notoriously secretive Apple hasn't commented on CarKey, and it's unclear when it might find its way to iPhones or Apple Watches. But the very fact that it's baked into iOS 13.4 suggests that it's coming somewhat soon. 

If and when CarKey launches, it should be interesting to see which cars it'll work for and which manufacturers will sign on to the feature. Car makers have been somewhat slow to adopt CarPlay and Android Auto. Whether this would have a faster uptick in usage, and what it might mean for the auto market, remains to be seen.

Published on: Feb 6, 2020
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