KEY POINTS

  • Evidence of a CarKey API have been discovered in iOS 13.4
  • Discovered files indicate that iPhones can be used to operate cars in the future
  • A release date remains unknown at the moment

iPhone users might soon be able to use their Apple handsets to unlock their cars, lock the doors when they're in, and turn the engine on – all without the use of physical keys.

Hidden inside the recently released iOS 13.4 beta for developers are evidences pointing to the possibility that iPhones might soon be used as car keys, 9To5Mac reported. The new iOS version contains references to a “CarKey” API, which indicates Cupertino's plans to add a new functionality to the iPhone.

According to the files, CarKey will work through the Wallet app. It can be used in vehicles with NFC, which means users will only need to hold their iPhones close to the vehicle for it to be used as a key. What's more, CarKey will not require the use of Face ID.

Per 9To5Mac, the files reveal that “To use CarKey, hold iPhone or Apple Watch to reader. It will work automatically, without requiring Face ID. You can change express mode settings in Wallet.” Users will be able to pair their iPhone with their car using both the Wallet app and the respective car manufacturer's app.

Interestingly, the files also reveal that the functionality can be extended to the Apple Watch. After users successfully pair their iPhones to their cars, CarKey will become available in the Wallet app. Once it's there, the key can then be added to the Apple Watch.

What's more, CarKey can also be shared with other iPhone users. Those who have paired their handsets to their cars and have CarKey added to the Wallet app can send an invite others through the app so they'll be given access to the car. This feature is seen to benefit users who want to share access to their family members or trusted friends.

“%@ invited you to use their %@ with unlock access. This allows you to use your iPhone and Apple Watch to unlock/lock the car,” the invite reads, as per 9To5Mac.

Some car manufacturers already have a similar feature that allows smartphone owners to use their handsets as keys. Most of them, however, have limitations, The Verge noted. Hyundai's digital key app, for example, allows Android smartphone users to drive the 2020 Sonata without the need for a physical key. Apple's API might allow iPhones to work with more vehicles.

Ferrari CarPlay The Apple CarPlay syster featured in a Ferrari. Photo: Courtesy Ferrari