If Volvo’s engineers have any say, we’ll never lose our car keys again…but better not lose your phone!

Car keys are about to change forever, and Volvo is offering a glimpse of what’s to come.  In a few short years we may not even need keys to start the car- not even a transponder, a fob, or anything at all.

What’s Volvo doing to the car key?

Luxury brand car makers have been known to do fancy things with their keys.  Porsche, for example, offers keys that look like its cars.  You can even get them painted in the same colors as the actual car.

Not to be outdone, BMW offers a built in screen on keys for the new 7 series.  It’s a touchscreen, no less.  It does everything, including showing vehicle status displays on its LCD screen.  Check fuel level, or the range of your Beemer’s electric battery.  Find out if you locked the doors, too… all from the upgraded fob.

Volvo, on the other hand, trumped them all and did away with the key completely.  Starting in 2017, you’ll have the option of forgoing the car key if you dare…but how will you lock, start, and unlock your shiny new Volvo?

Introducing your smartphone, the newest car key.

Volvo plans on offering the car key app for customers who brave the new keyless existence.  New Volvo owners will use their phones to unlock the car, via the Volvo app.  Although Volvo is pretty tight-lipped at this early stage of the game, they did reveal that “Bluetooth” will be involved.

So long, car keys- we’ll miss losing you, breaking you, getting you stuck in the ignition, and locking you inside our cars.  It’s been a nice, long road. Things are now changing so fast, so let’s take a look at the past, from whence you came.

It’s the final step in the evolution of the car key.

Car keys seem to be on their own super-charged evolutionary path.  For decades we got along with the simple metal-cut key.  In fact, for the roughly 100 years people have been driving cars, car keys looked pretty much the same for the first 80 years or so.

Only in recent decades have we begun to tinker with the look, the design, and the functionality of car keys.  From the simple cut-metal basic car key to transponder keys and smart keys, they’ve changed the most in just the past 20 years.

Up until the mid-1990s, that simple metal key was all we had for locking and starting our cars, as well as unlocking the boot.  There was no remote locking, no security features, and they were incredibly easy to duplicate.

No special equipment needed for car lock outs, either.  Car locksmiths can simply cut a new key using the same machine they use at a hardware store to make a house key.  Then key evolution took over…

  • Then came the electronic key fob, otherwise known as a remote.  Fobs have to be programmed, and the cost of replacing them runs far more than the old metal keys.
  • Next were the transponder keys.  These have a chip inside them, which must be programmed too.
  • Transponder keys were followed by laser-cut keys and the switchblade key.
  • Finally we have the smart key and ultimately we’ll have no key at all, if Volvo is any indication.

But why is Volvo doing this?

Volvo isn’t just doing away with keys for the sake of being radical.  Their leadership has far greater goals in mind.  By introducing the concept of controlling your car with an app, they’re paving the way for even more functionality to occur through apps.

What they’re really doing is readying us for shared cars.  Cars can be parked anywhere and be shared by end users who are granted time slot access via their Volvo app.

If that reminds you of how rental car agencies work, then you’re right on the money as far as how this is playing out.  Car sharing and car renting are essentially the same thing when you boil them down to their pure essences: one car is driven by many drivers at managed times and for a price.

See for yourself in Sweden.

If you want a first-hand look at Volvo’s new keyless technology, head over to Sweden’s Gothenburg Airport.  That’s where Volvo will be debuting a limited number of commercially available keyless cars with Sunfleet.

Sunfleet is Volvo’s car sharing firm, and the cars sans keys should appear this Spring (2016).

Right now, the keyless car technology by Volvo is making its debut at the Mobile World Congress 2016, which took place February 22-25 in Barcelona at the Ericsson booth.