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Apple’s new CarKey feature for iOS may arrive sooner than you think

Published Jun 16th, 2020 4:01PM EDT
iOS 13 New Features
Image: Alex Tai/SOPA Images/Shutterstock

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  • A new iOS feature dubbed CarKey will likely be introduced at WWDC next week.
  • Originally introduced as part of an iOS 13 beta, the CarKey API will allow car owners to unlock, lock, and start their vehicles directly from their iPhone or Apple Watch.
  • Details regarding privacy and how the technology works were found in a recent iOS 13.6 beta.

With the release of the first iOS 13.4 beta a few months back, Apple introduced a brand new CarKey API designed to give car owners more granular control over their vehicles. In short, the new API will allow iPhone and Apple Watch owners to start, lock, and unlock their cars directly from their devices.

Sure, key fobs have had this functionality for years, but the ability to enjoy that same type of control straight from your iOS device is an added layer of convenience. What’s more, the CarKey API is distinctly more powerful than a standard key fob. Specifically, the API will allow car owners to share vehicle access with friends and family. For example, if your friend needs to borrow your car or access something from the trunk, you can send a token which grants them one-time or permanent access.

As it stands now, there’s no telling if CarKey will officially be introduced as part of iOS 14 or an upcoming iOS 13 release. What is clear, however, is that the feature is coming soon and it stands to reason we’ll see Apple officially introduce it at WWDC next week. To this end, iPhone Ticker recently discovered some new privacy information regarding CarKey in the latest iOS 13.6 build. It reads as follows:

Wallet allows you to add and share car keys for certain vehicles. You can add a car key by logging into the vehicle manufacturer’s app or by entering a coupling code in Wallet to assert your claim as a vehicle owner and to pair your device with your vehicle. If the connection is successful, your device sends a one-time redemption token for the holder to Apple. Apple uses the redemption token, information about your Apple account and device, and your location details at the time of deployment (when location services are enabled) to prevent abuse.

To configure your car key, Apple shares a unique device ID with your vehicle manufacturer. This device ID is different for each vehicle manufacturer to protect your privacy. Your vehicle manufacturer can link this device ID to other information that it has collected about you and will process this information in accordance with its privacy policy.

You can share car keys by tapping “Invite” on the back of the card, selecting the type of access you want, and sharing the card for the car keys using iMessage. Apple shares information about who a card is shared with and the type of access granted to the vehicle manufacturer to help configure and manage car key cards. Apple also shares a unique device ID for the card recipient with the vehicle manufacturer so they can manage your card. For card recipients and owners, the vehicle manufacturer can combine the device ID with other information about the recipient and process this information in accordance with its privacy policy.

Apple does not collect or keep any data about vehicle use, such as when the card for the car keys was used to unlock or lock the vehicle. Your vehicle manufacturer can collect usage data of your vehicle in accordance with the agreements made with you. We recommend reading the vehicle manufacturer’s privacy policy for additional information.

As we’ve highlighted previously, CarKey will offer users three distinct types of vehicle access. The list includes Truck Access, Access Only (unlocking privileges), and Access and Drive. All told, we haven’t seen a ton of intriguing iOS 14 rumors just yet, but hopefully Apple will have a few surprises in store for us.

Yoni Heisler Contributing Writer

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large with over 15 years of experience. A life long expert Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW.

When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.