Keyless Entry: What's a Digital Car Key?

dr Drashco
dr Drashco Cars

Digital keys for cars (securely stored in a smartphone) are becoming increasingly popular as a way to improve security and convenience.

Unlike traditional keys, which require physical contact with the car in order to lock and unlock it, digital keys use radio waves to communicate with the car's onboard computer. In this blog post, we'll take a closer look at how digital keys work, the benefits of using one, and how to use a digital key to start your car.

How Digital Keys Work

Digital keys use radio frequency identification (RFID) technology to communicate with the car's onboard computer. When the digital key is within a certain range of the car, it sends a unique identification code to the car, which the computer then verifies. If the code is correct, the car will unlock and allow the driver to start the engine.

Benefits of using a Digital Key

Using a digital key has several benefits compared to traditional keys. One of the main advantages is the convenience of keyless entry, which allows you to simply walk up to your car and open the door without having to fumble for a physical key.

Another benefit is improved security, since a digital key can't be duplicated or stolen as easily as a traditional key. Additionally, some digital keys also offer remote start capabilities, allowing you to start your car from a distance using your smartphone.

How to use a Digital Key

Using a digital key is relatively simple. First, make sure your digital key is within range of your car. Then, press the lock or unlock button on your key fob or smartphone to communicate with the car's onboard computer.

If the computer recognizes your key, it will unlock the doors and allow you to start the engine. If you have a remote start capability on your key, you can also start the car by using the corresponding button on your key fob or smartphone app.

Troubleshooting common issues with Digital Keys

If you're having trouble using your digital key, here are a few common issues and solutions:

  • Make sure that your phone battery is fully charged
  • Restart your mobile phone before trying to unlock and start the car engine
  • Move the smartphone closer to the NFC reader in the vehicle

What Cars Have Digital Keys?

Currently, only a handfull of car manufacturers is suporting digital car keys out of the box:

  • Kia Nero, Kia Telluride
  • Hyundai Ioniq, Hyundai Palisade
  • AITO M5
  • Genesis G90, Genesis GV60
  • BMW 1-8 series(>=2020 MY), BMW M series (>=2020 MY), BMW X5-X7 series, BMW i/iX series

Digital Key Use cases

  • Unlock the Vehicle – Smart device in vehicle’s proximity
  • Lock the Vehicle
  • Start the Engine – Smart device within a vehicle
  • User Authentication
  • Digital Key Provisioning
  • Digital Key Revocation
  • Selling the Vehicle
  • Digital Key Sharing – Remote & Peer-to-Peer
  • Digital Key Properties – Restricting (shared) key usage


CCC Digital Key is a standardized ecosystem that enables mobile devices to store, authenticate, and share Digital Keys for vehicles in a secure, privacy-preserving way that works everywhere, even when the smartphone’s battery is low.

Digital Key allows consumers to easily and confidently use their mobile devices to access vehicles. Along with robust capability and convenience, it offers enhanced security and privacy protections. Digital Key aims to complement traditional methods, while being robust enough to fully replace them.

Our mobile devices play an important role in our lives, enabling us to consolidate information and tools supporting nearly all of our daily activities into a single device.

We expect the performance and capability of our smartphones to continuously improve in response to our growing demands, and we expect them to secure our information and protect our privacy with growing rigor. We have been able to use our smartphones to access our vehicles for some time now, using mobile apps provided by vehicle manufacturers and rental companies; however, these apps use different, non-interoperable approaches with varying degrees of convenience, security, and privacy protection.

What’s missing is a worldwide standard that enables our mobile devices to be used as keys for our vehicles. Digital Key closes this gap.