Google’s Android Digital Car Key Debuts on BMWs, With More Cars on the Way


In the first applications of Google’s Android digital car key, compatible BMW cars can now be unlocked, locked and started with select Android smartphones. With this launch, the BMW Digital Key, which is already available for the iPhone, is now available for the Android-equipped Samsung Galaxy S21 Series, Google Pixel 6 and Google Pixel 6 Pro, BMW and Google announced Wednesday (Dec. 1).

With the BMW Digital Key on Android phones, customers hold the phone next to the handle of the driver’s door to unlock and lock the car. When they place the phone in the BMW wireless charging compartment, they can start the engine.

“To ensure maximum ease of use and security, the BMW Digital Key is stored on the secure element of the smartphone,” BMW said in a press release. “It can be easily configured via My BMW app and is then available as an option for almost all BMW models.”

More Capabilities on the Way 

In the next release, the automaker said, customers will be able to share the key with as many as five friends. In addition, a future release will add functionalities based on Ultra Wideband.

If the BMW Digital Key Plus that is now available for the iPhone and uses Ultra Wideband is any guide, those functionalities may include the ability to unlock, lock and start the car without having to hold the phone near the door handle or place it in the charging compartment — instead, customers can keep their phone wherever they normally carry it.

That’s a capability Google highlighted in a May 18 blog post that announced the then-upcoming launch of the Android digital car key.

“By using Ultra Wideband (UWB) technology, you won’t even have to take your phone out to use it as a car key,” according to Google. “And for NFC-enabled car models, it’s as easy as tapping your phone on the car door to unlock it. Since it’s all digital, you can also securely and remotely share your car key with friends and family if they need to borrow your car.”

Android Auto Already on 100 Million Cars 

In a Dec. 1 blog post announcing several new Android features, including the digital car key, Google said, “We also continue to introduce new ways to bring your phone and car closer together.”

Google has announced only BMW as a partner using the digital car key, but it has said it is working with other car manufacturers too. Android Auto is available in more than 100 million cars, including most new vehicles from about 60 brands worldwide.

BMW vehicles compatible with the digital key also come with a key card or key fob. Cautious drivers will carry these as a backup in case their smartphone-based digital key has a problem such as the one Tesla drivers recently experienced.

Read more: Tesla Drivers Learn What Happens When Connected Cars Meet a Software Outage

In that case, the digital keys didn’t work for a time due to a software outage. However, users reported they had run into problems in the past in underground parking lots and in areas with many Wi-Fi connections that interfered with the operation of the app.