The Car Connectivity Consortium announced that the specification is planned for completion by the middle of 2021. It adds Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and Ultra-Wideband (UWB) wireless connectivity technologies to enable compatible mobile devices with passive keyless access and engine start.

The specification is the latest development in the consortium’s Digital Key project, which aims to provide an open standard for digital vehicle keys using smart devices (i.e. a smartphone or smartwatch). Its members include global OEMs, such as General Motors and BMW, and technology-focused companies such as SBD Automotive, an automotive technology research and consultancy firm with significant experience in digital key systems.

The Digital Key Release 3.0 specification will complement the Release 2.0 specification, which leverages Near Field Communication (NFC) technology for contactless communication between smartphones and vehicles. Through implementation of UWB connectivity, Release 3.0 adds hands-free, location-aware, keyless access and location-aware features for an improved user-friendly experience. It maintains support for NFC technology as a mandatory back-up solution.

Digital Key Release 3.0 addresses security and usability by authenticating the Digital Key between a vehicle, and the mobile device, over BLE and then establishing a secure ranging session with UWB –which allows the vehicle to perform secure, and accurate, distance measurement to localize the mobile device.

Mobile devices, themselves, create and store the Digital Keys in Secure Elements that provide the highest level of protection against hardware or software-based attacks. The UWB exchange also generates critical cryptographic parameters in the Secure Elements to ensure the highest security in localizing the device to the vehicle – and thereby authorize the user to access and drive the vehicle.