iOS 14 code hints BMW could be first to use Apple's 'CarKey' API, report says

in General Discussion edited June 2020
Code snippets purportedly discovered in Apple's next-generation iOS operating system suggest BMW will integrate the tech giant's "CarKey" API, an NFC-based keyless entry system that swaps out physical key fobs for an iPhone.

BMW's digital key initiative seeks to create a global standard.

Without going into detail, 9to5Mac reports "evidence" in a pre-release version of the as-yet-unannounced iOS 14 indicates BMW will be the first automaker to support "CarKey" if and when the initiative launches.

When reached for comment, BMW was unable to confirm its role in Apple's plans. The German carmaker pointed to a December press release outlining its commitment to a global Digital Key standard.

"The BMW Group has therefore been driving the creation of a global standard for digital vehicle access within the Car Connectivity Consortium (CCC)," the release reads. "Most well-known smartphone producers and automotive manufacturers have already joined the consortium. Standard specifications across industries will also help include all kinds of smart devices, including phones, watches and other wearables."

Apple, too, is part of the CCC.

In June 2018, the group published information about its Digital Key Release 1.0 specification, an NFC solution that allows authenticated smart devices to lock, unlock, start the engine of and share access to a specific car. A revision to the standard, Digital Key Release 2.0, was announced in October and adds enhanced security protocols by employing dedicated "tamper-resistant" chips in a control device.

The CCC is currently working toward Digital Key Release 3.0, which will tap Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and Ultra-Wideband (UWB) technology to deliver passive, location-aware keyless access. Apple's latest products, including iPhone 11, support both BLE and UWB, the latter of which is restricted to precise AirDrop file sharing.

Apple was recently found to be developing its own proprietary digital key technology in "CarKey," an API discovered in an iOS 13.4 beta in February. Not much is known about the system, but it is believed to leverage NFC hardware on iPhone, and potentially Apple Watch, to communicate with a car's onboard computer to unlock, lock and start a vehicle.

The Cupertino tech giant has been investigating digital car key systems for years. In 2018, the company filed a patent application describing methods by which an iPhone can securely control a car's subsystems. More recently, a patent last November detailed a solution that, like the CCC's Digital Key 3.0, integrates Bluetooth and UWB to determine a device's relative location before exchanging cryptographic keys with a target vehicle.


  • Reply 1 of 10
    WgkruegerWgkrueger Posts: 352member
    I wonder how much per month BMW will charge for this feature?
  • Reply 2 of 10
    robin huberrobin huber Posts: 3,723member
    PLEASE extend this to Apple Watch. 
  • Reply 3 of 10
    SoliSoli Posts: 10,033member
    Makes sense considering BMW being quick to get in with iPod Dock Connector and CarPlay, but what Wgkrueger states has been problematic and has kept me from buying a Beemer. Hopefully they realize that a subscription for a feature isn't a winning strategy. Now, subscription car usage seems to be the ticket for millennials making a good paycheck that don't want the longterm commitment.

    PLEASE extend this to Apple Watch. 
    I'll be surprised if it's not a Watch option.
  • Reply 4 of 10
    wood1208wood1208 Posts: 2,816member
    It's about time to use iPhone to not only able to lock/unlock but access car's infotainment.
  • Reply 5 of 10
    big kcbig kc Posts: 137member
    Wgkrueger said:
    I wonder how much per month BMW will charge for this feature?
    I bought a new E90 3-series when they came out in 2006, and that was the first year for keyless go, and the ability to open doors by simply reaching around the handle, and to lock them by tapping near where the lock cylinder would be. Cost? $500 on 3-series, but $1000 on a 5-series. Typical BMW pricing insanity. If I had to guess, they'll want $1000 for this luxury in the 3 and below, and some further inflated amount for the more expensive models. That's just how they roll. And it's ridiculous.
  • Reply 6 of 10
    chadbagchadbag Posts: 1,821member
    Meanwhile VW/Audi just includes the keyless entry (existing tech version) and probably will this tech (VW loss leaders may not but our higher end Jetta (US model, not GLI) has it included, as does the Audi A3

  • Reply 7 of 10
    swat671swat671 Posts: 132member
    I wonder if BMW, Audi, etc could put in the BLE/UWB hardware, and just leave it dormant, and then enable it with an OTA update down the line... That tech is already mature, so it shouldn't be too hard, and the chips themselves can't be more that a few dollars, chump change for a Beemer, Tesla, etc...
  • Reply 8 of 10
    Wgkrueger said:
    I wonder how much per month BMW will charge for this feature?

    What I came to say...
    $.05 & $.10
  • Reply 9 of 10
    Very cool... But I wouldn't call it new.  BMW's already had the ability to be unlocked, started, and have a key shared with Android phones for over a year. 
  • Reply 10 of 10
    SoliSoli Posts: 10,033member
    SirWise23 said:
    Very cool... But I wouldn't call it new.  BMW's already had the ability to be unlocked, started, and have a key shared with Android phones for over a year. 
    Not what's being discussed. Pay attention or move along.
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