Continuing the trend of phones replacing physical wallets and cards for more and more people, Android 12 is introducing support for digital car keys. Google showed off the capability at I/O 2021 this morning.

Android 12 digital car keys let you unlock/lock and start a vehicle from your phone. Visually, it takes on the appearance of a Google Pay credit/debit card with a “Hold to reader” prompt and options like requiring an “unlocked phone to use this key.” This fullscreen page also links to the companion app with a shortcut to quickly open or download. 

Behind the scenes, Google will leverage Ultra Wideband (UWB) technology on newer devices so that you don’t have to take your phone out. Meanwhile, getting inside an NFC-enabled vehicle will require a physical tap on the car door.

This dual approach allows devices that have the absolute newest tech to still take advantage of these virtual keys. Meanwhile, users will be able to securely and remotely share your car key with others when necessary.

Android 12’s digital car keys will be available on “select” Pixel and Samsung Galaxy phones in the coming months. This is presumably in reference to UWB availability, while BMW is one of the first named vehicle partners. Apple has a similar feature for the latest iPhones and is also in the process of rolling out these virtual credentials.

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