Phones, Retinal Scans Could Soon Replace Your Car Keys

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Lost car keys could be a thing of the past if wireless technologies pan out and provide better security than physical keys. The possibilities include phones that would link with your car, near-field communications (NFC), and even a retinal scan of your eyes.

Several automakers are working on phones as entry and ignition keys. BMW talked about such a device at the recent Frankfurt Auto Show. Gentex, the maker or rear-view mirrors and camera mirrors, has proposed embedded an eye recognition system in the mirror. Right now, phones can remotely start your car and unlock your car, but you can’t drive away without bringing a physical key to you.

BMW Smart Remote, here with 7 Series, takes up almost as much pocket space as a cellphone.

BMW Says Phone Is Your Next Key

At this month’s Frankfurt Auto Show, BMW suggested your phone could take over for the physical key that itself is wireless and merely transfers okay-to-unlock, okay-to-start signals to the car. “People never take [the key] out of their pockets,” BMW board member Ian Robertson told Reuters, “so why do I need to carry it around? We are looking at whether it is feasible, and whether we can do it. Whether we do it right now or at some point in the future, remains to be seen.”

BMW currently has a wireless key with an LCD that is halfway between a typical key fob remote and a phone, with a replacement price of several hundred dollars. Like other automakers, BMW has an app already that allows for unlock and remote start to warm or cool the car before driving off, at which point the car wants to sense a physical key in the cockpit before it can be driven off.

Going further, the Tesla Model 3 already has an app that uses Bluetooth LE. It’s the car key, as well as the remote unlock. It ships with a pair of NFC-enabled key cards you can give to the parking valet to unlock and start the car with a key tap.

Critics include people who believe everything can be hacked, as well as those who say, “What if I buy a BMW and I’m still using a Motorola flip-phone that suits me just fine?” As if someone with a 10-year-old phone is the likely buyer of a $ 100,000 Bimmer.

The Gentex Biometric Mirror reads the driver’s iris before starting.

Gentex Finds One More Use for the Rear-View Mirror

Gentex, the giant Michigan maker of mirrors and rear vision systems, is looking at embedding a biometric authentication system inside the cockpit rear-view mirror. Once you enter the key (using a phone or keyfob wireless remote), the driver would look in the direction of the mirror and be authenticated. The car would start and load personalized driver settings: seat, steering wheel and pedal positions; mirror positions; favorite radio stations; and navigation favorites (work, gym, golf club). It could also enforce teen driver limits, such as reporting speeding or driving outside a geo-fenced area on school days.

Gentex is working with Delta ID and its ActiveIris technology that is also used on phones and tablets. Gentex says the odds of letting the wrong person have access to the car are on the order of one in 10 million, “far superior to facial, voice, or even fingerprint recognition.” The company’s plans including linking biometric authentication with HomeLink, which it now owns. HomeLink is the multi-button garage door opener embedded in the mirror that Gentex wants to expand to be a home-automation gateway covering security systems, HVAC, and home lighting.

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