Hyundai-Kia to Offer Smartphone-Based Digital Key

Hyundai Motor Co. and its Kia Motors affiliate are introducing a feature that will enable customers to unlock and start their vehicles with a smartphone.

The Digital Key technology, which Hyundai touts as more secure than similar features offered by other carmakers, will debut in the 2020 model Hyundai Sonata sedan due later this year.

The system enables owners to program as many as four smartphones to access the same vehicle. The feature can set user-specific adjustments for mirrors, seat position, steering wheel tilt, navigation system and audio controls.

Owners who intend to share or rent out their cars can use the Digital Key to specify a time limit for how long access will be available via a given smartphone. They also can limit user access to certain features.

The Hyundai system enables an approved phone to communicate with the vehicle via near-field communication technology. NFC requires the phone to be positioned within a few inches of the door lock or ignition button.

Hyundai says the close proximity provides significantly better security than more common Bluetooth-based remote keys, whose signal can be intercepted by thieves as far as 30 feet away.

The smartphone app also will accommodate the use of conventional smart keys and card keys for use by valet or service personnel, according to the company.