Sharing your car via smart connected devices made easier

9th September 2020
Alex Lynn

In early May, the Car Connectivity Consortium (CCC) announced the finalisation and availability of its Digital Key Release 2.0 specification. This framework, endorsed by leading carmakers, smartphone manufacturers and electronics suppliers, creates a standardised Digital Key ecosystem that enables mobile devices to store, authenticate, and share Digital Keys for vehicles in a secure, privacy-preserving way to make sharing your car via smart connected devices easier.

By Rainer Lutz, Director Segment Digital Key & NFC, NXP Semiconductors

While this announcement may fly under the radar of the general public as a ‘techie’ announcement, what it makes possible for the consumer’s digital lifestyle should make people stand up and take notice.  

Convergence in the digital lifestyle

The typical automotive development cycle is longer than those of smartphones and devices, which refresh on a near annual basis. This is because bringing a vehicle to market involves an exceedingly complex ecosystem of suppliers and technologies. As a result, the in-car experience often lags those of other smart devices. This may lead consumers to wonder why they can buy goods, do their personal banking, control their home’s temperature and gain access to a hotel room with a device, but they can’t access or share a car with one.

The new CCC specification allows the mobile and automotive worlds to securely converge in exciting new ways to enhance the digital lifestyle. To make this possible the CCC agreed on an interoperable system that allows smartphones and smartwatches, or other smart devices, to grant and accept access seamlessly. 

This system will soon allow families and friends to share their car keys via smart devices, car sharing companies to provide keys over the cloud, and consumers to even provide access to their car’s trunk so that online orders can be delivered to their car. Not only is it conceivable that you could provide your daughter with access to your car via smartphone, it could even be possible to specify the number of days it can be used.

The architecture is also designed to allow car owners to access their vehicles without Internet connectivity, an important consideration when outside of access areas. Additionally, it allows mobile devices to access a vehicle in ‘Battery Low Mode’. Overall, the specification opens the door for carmakers to offer differentiated custom features.

The tech framework that makes it all possible

The new 2.0 Digital Key specification leverages Near Field Communication (NFC) technology for contactless communication between smartphones and vehicles and creates standardised interfaces to ensure interoperability between solutions from mobile device makers and OEMs.  Security and privacy, important considerations when providing access to people’s most expensive assets, is addressed by standards-based public key infrastructure and the housing of Digital Keys within Secure Elements for a high level of security.

What’s next for the CCC? The organisation’s website has outlined the enablement of handsfree smart car access in CCC Release 3. Release 3 will specify Secure digital key management, automotive Bluetooth (BLE) for communication and Ultra-Wideband (UWB) technology for precise and secure localisation. These supplements will further develop the opportunities for smart device makers and vehicle manufacturers to enhance the evolving digital lifestyle.

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