Apple's Digital Car Key Feature Set to Gain U1 Ultra Wideband Support With Mid-2021 Spec Update

The Car Connectivity Consortium today announced that its Digital Key 3.0 specification with support for Ultra Wideband and Bluetooth LE connectivity will be made available to members like Apple by the middle of 2021.

bmw car key photo
At WWDC 2020, Apple introduced a new NFC-based digital Car Key feature that allows users to unlock and start their vehicle by holding a compatible iPhone or Apple Watch near the driver-side door. Similar to credit cards and boarding passes, digital car keys are stored in the Wallet app on devices running iOS 13.6 and watchOS 6.2.8 or later. So far, the feature is only compatible with select BMW models manufactured after July 1, 2020.

With support for Ultra Wideband, Digital Key 3.0 will enable hands-free, location-aware keyless access to vehicles and other location-aware features for an improved user experience. The specification will allow Apple to improve its Car Key feature so that users can unlock and start a compatible vehicle without taking their iPhone out of their pocket. NFC will continue to be supported as a "mandatory back-up solution."

The improved Ultra Wideband version of Apple's Car Key feature would require devices with the U1 chip like iPhone 11 and iPhone 12 models.

BMW previously announced plans to offer Digital Key Plus, an enhanced version of Apple's Car Key feature, in its new iX electric vehicle. BMW said the feature would be available in Europe starting in late 2021 and in North America by early 2022.

In addition to providing a hands-free, location-aware experience, BMW said Ultra Wideband's precision would ensure that relay attacks, where the radio signal is jammed or intercepted, are not possible, resulting in improved security.

"Digital Key Release 3.0 addresses security and usability by authenticating the Digital Key between a vehicle and the mobile device over Bluetooth Low Energy and then establishing a secure ranging session with UWB, which allows the vehicle to perform secure and accurate distance measurement to localize the mobile device," said the Car Connectivity Consortium.

Apple previously said the new version of its Car Key feature with Ultra Wideband support would be available in 2021, but an exact timeframe is unknown. Apple will be hosting a virtual event today at 10 a.m. Pacific Time.

Top Rated Comments

Johnny907 Avatar
17 months ago
Let’s hope it’s more secure than the actual key fobs car makers are using these days.
Case in point: my sister’s week old Audi SQ8 was stolen while she was in the grocery store for 20 minutes last month. You’d think a car that new and that expensive would have unbreakable wireless encryption, but apparently you’d be wrong. Video shows a dude walking up after she leaves, waves something in front of the door for a couple seconds until it unlocks, gets in and 30 seconds later drives off.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Razorpit Avatar
17 months ago
I like the idea of this technology, but having to take my phone out of my pocket or holding my watch to the door seems like a step backwards from just grabbing the door handle and having the fob do the work now.

Having had various phone crashes, low battery, etc. I’m not going anywhere anytime soon and leaving the tried and true fob method we have now.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
TheYayAreaLiving ? Avatar
17 months ago
Hopefully it gets expanded to all car models.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Razorpit Avatar
17 months ago

Let’s hope it’s more secure than the actual key fobs car makers are using these days.
Case in point: my sister’s week old Audi SQ8 was stolen while she was in the grocery store for 20 minutes last month. You’d think a car that new and that expensive would have unbreakable wireless encryption, but apparently you’d be wrong. Video shows a dude walking up after she leaves, waves something in front of the door for a couple seconds until it unlocks, gets in and 30 seconds later drives off.
That’s the one downside of the current fobs. Encryption needs to catch up with the times.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Unregistered 4U Avatar
17 months ago

I like the idea of this technology, but having to take my phone out of my pocket or holding my watch to the door seems like a step backwards from just grabbing the door handle and having the fob do the work now.

Having had various phone crashes, low battery, etc. I’m not going anywhere anytime soon and leaving the tried and true fob method we have now.
I think that’s just for the picture :)… or at least I HOPE it is as this is supposed to be a god replacement for passive entry systems where the car unlocks with a button push if the fob is nearby.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Shivetya Avatar
17 months ago
I am very happy with my Tesla working with blue tooth to open the car and such. I haven't seen a broadcast booster system which exploits it similar to how fobs are exploited. even better we can further protect our car with a pin to start. Ford even allows pin to access the car with their EV
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Related Stories

Apple car wheel icon feature yellow

Apple Working Toward Fully Autonomous Car With No Steering Wheel or Pedals, Aiming to Launch in 2025

Thursday November 18, 2021 9:47 am PST by
Apple is picking up its work on an Apple-designed car and is aiming to create a fully autonomous vehicle, reports Bloomberg. Apple is "refocusing" the project around full self-driving vehicles, a goal that other car manufacturers have not been able to achieve. Work on an Apple Car began way back in 2014, and since then, the project has gone through multiple transformations. At one point,...
vanarama apple car concept

Apple Car Schematics Reportedly Presented to Japanese Auto Parts Maker in 2020

Sunday January 9, 2022 2:47 pm PST by
In January 2020, a man who identified himself as an Apple parts manager informed Japanese auto supplier Sanden that Apple wanted to make electric vehicles, and presented schematics of an electric vehicle and air conditioner parts, according to Nikkei Asia. Apple Car concept by Vanarama based on patents filed by Apple Sanden is a leading manufacturer of air conditioner parts for vehicles, and...
Apple car wheel icon feature triad

Apple Car Hardware Engineer Leaves for Air Taxi Startup

Wednesday December 1, 2021 2:31 pm PST by
Apple's Car project recently lost one of its engineering directors, with Michael Schwekutsch departing the company to join air taxi startup Archer Aviation. As discovered by CNBC, Schwekutsch updated his LinkedIn profile to note that he has taken on a role of senior vice president of engineering at Archer. Archer is an aerospace company that is developing an all-electric aircraft that...
Apple car wheel icon feature blue

Apple Watch Chief Kevin Lynch Now Leading Apple Car Efforts

Thursday September 9, 2021 12:28 pm PDT by
Apple VP of technology Kevin Lynch is taking over the Apple Car project and will be replacing Doug Field, who is moving to Ford, reports Bloomberg. Lynch first joined the Apple Car team in July, with reports suggesting he had been called on to help lead Apple Car development. Now that Field has left the company, Lynch will be taking over his role and will be in charge of the Apple Car. Lynch ...
vanarama apple car concept

British Car Leasing Company Creates 'Apple Car' 3D Render Based on Patents

Friday December 10, 2021 4:29 am PST by
British vehicle leasing company Vanarama has taken a stab at imagining what the first Apple Car could look like, taking inspiration from iPhones, MacBooks, and other Apple products, and combining them with real Apple patents to come up with a 3D concept render that can be explored inside and out. Given that Apple remains tight-lipped about its electric self-driving car plans, the concept is ...
hyatt wallet app hotel room key

Here's a First Look at the iPhone's Convenient Hotel Room Key Feature

Tuesday January 25, 2022 9:31 am PST by
iOS 15 and watchOS 8 introduce the ability to add hotel room keys to the Wallet app on the iPhone and Apple Watch, allowing you to gain access to your room, elevators, and other locked areas by simply tapping your iPhone or Apple Watch against a card reader. The feature eliminates the need for a traditional plastic room card. Last month, hotel chain Hyatt became the first to adopt the feature...
m1 ultra performance chart

M1 Ultra Doesn't Beat Out Nvidia's RTX 3090 GPU Despite Apple's Charts

Thursday March 17, 2022 1:17 pm PDT by
Despite Apple's claims and charts, the new M1 Ultra chip is not able to outperform Nvidia's RTX 3090 in terms of raw GPU performance, according to benchmark testing performed by The Verge. When the M1 Ultra was introduced, Apple shared a chart that had the new chip winning out over the "highest-end discrete GPU" in "relative performance," without details on what tests were run to achieve...
bmw car key photo

Apple's Digital Car Key Feature Will Soon Work With Your iPhone in Your Pocket

Tuesday July 13, 2021 8:13 am PDT by
The Car Connectivity Consortium today announced that its Digital Key 3.0 specification with support for Ultra Wideband and Bluetooth LE connectivity is finalized and now available to members, including Apple. In 2020, Apple introduced a digital car key feature that allows users to unlock and start a compatible vehicle by holding an iPhone or Apple Watch near the driver-side door. The feature ...

Popular Stories

airpods pro black background

AirPods Pro 2: Five New Features and Improvements to Expect

Sunday August 14, 2022 3:28 pm PDT by
Apple's second-generation AirPods Pro are finally nearing launch, with a release expected later this year. If you are considering upgrading to the new AirPods Pro once they are released, keep reading for a list of five new features to expect. In addition to all-new features, the second-generation AirPods Pro will likely adopt some features added to the standard AirPods last year. H2 Chip ...
10th Generation iPad Render

10th-Generation iPad With Major Design Changes Reportedly in Production Ahead of September Launch

Monday August 15, 2022 8:02 pm PDT by
Apple's rumored 10th-generation iPad is currently in production and will feature "major" design changes, according to a report from Taiwanese website DigiTimes. A mockup of the potential 10th-generation iPad design by Renders By Shailesh The report did not provide any specific details about the 10th-generation iPad's new design, but rumors suggest the device will feature a larger 10.5-inch...
ios 16 lock screen feature2

Apple Seeds Sixth Betas of iOS 16 and iPadOS 16 to Developers [Update: Public Beta Available]

Monday August 15, 2022 10:04 am PDT by
Apple today seeded the sixth betas of upcoming iOS 16 and iPadOS 16 updates to developers for testing purposes, with the updates coming a week after Apple released the fifth developer betas. Registered developers can download the iOS and iPadOS 16 profiles from the Apple Developer Center, and once installed, the betas will be available over the air. iOS 16 introduces a revamped Lock...
iPhone 14 Dummies 1 Feature

Everything Rumored for Apple's September Event: iPhone 14, Apple Watch Pro and More

Friday August 12, 2022 2:34 pm PDT by
There's just about a month to go until Apple holds its annual September event focusing on new iPhone and Apple Watch models. We thought we'd take a quick look at everything that's rumored for Apple's September event to give MacRumors readers a rundown on what to expect when the first fall event rolls around. iPhone 14 The iPhone 14 can probably be described more as an "iPhone 13S" because...
apple watch se

Apple Watch SE vs. Apple Watch Series 8: New Features to Expect If You've Waited to Upgrade

Monday August 15, 2022 2:44 am PDT by
The Apple Watch SE was announced in September 2020 and has been a popular Apple Watch model for customers looking for their first smartwatch or an affordable Apple Watch. Apple Watch SE customers may be wondering, however, what's in store for them with the upcoming Apple Watch Series 8 and what new features they can expect. Continue reading to find out. Apple Watch SE vs. Apple Watch Series ...
Apple Watch Series 3 v 8 1

Apple Watch Series 3 vs. Apple Watch Series 8: 20 Major New Features and Changes for Customers Upgrading

Tuesday August 16, 2022 6:52 am PDT by
It's crazy to think about, but next month will mark five years since Apple announced the Apple Watch Series 3. Despite being a severely antiquated smartwatch, the Series 3 has remained at the bottom of Apple's lineup for $199. Suppose you're still holding on to your Apple Watch Series 3. In that case, this article will list all the major new features and changes you'll get if you decide to...
iPhone 14 Pro Lineup Feature Purple

Apple Planning to Hold iPhone 14 Event on September 7

Wednesday August 17, 2022 9:51 am PDT by
Apple is aiming to hold its first fall event on Wednesday, September 7, reports Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. The event will focus on the iPhone 14 models and the Apple Watch Series 8. The standard iPhone 14 models are expected to get few changes, but the iPhone 14 Pro models will include updated camera technology, the removal of the notch in favor of a pill-shaped and hole-punch cutout, an A16...