IEEE University of Lahore


Smartphones Replace Fobs for Keyless Vehicle Entry

Lincoln and Amazon are the latest companies to harness smartphone apps for easy vehicle entry

Roll-up windows. Cigarette lighters. Physical ignition keys. All of these features have gone virtually extinct in modern automobiles. The quaint metal key gave way to transponder fobs, which led to “proximity keys” that don’t leave your pocket at all. Now, smartphones are becoming the new gatekeepers, as car companies roll out features that let drivers unlock and start their cars through an app.

Volvo began offering its subscription-based On Call service in 2016; it allows owners to use the company’s smartphone app to lock, unlock, and start their cars. With it, users can also remotely check vehicle fuel levels, receive service alerts, or send destinations to the onboard navigation system.

Tesla, which has never been shy about beta testing on its customers, then attempted to sell a car with no fob at all: The Model 3 sedan was initially available with only smartphone-based entry and ignition, and a backup RFID card. Beset by customer complaints of spotty operation, Tesla began offering a familiar fob last fall for an extra US $150. Yet that fob didn’t allow the “passive entry” of the smartphone system, requiring owners to push a button to enter or lock the car. 

Now it’s Lincoln’s turn. Ford’s luxury division will bring two SUVs to market this year, the midsize 2020 Aviator and compact 2020 Corsair. Traditionalists will still receive a standard fob, but adventurous types can pay extra for the Lincoln’s app-based, optional “Phone as a Key” system. 

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