GOTHENBURG: In its first appearance at Mobile World Congress, taking place in Barcelona Feb 22-25, Volvo will be attempting to unlock the smartphone's potential and in doing so, do away with car keys.
Bundling an app as part of a new car's features is not in itself groundbreaking. Most premium marques offer drivers remote access to things like a car's location, fuel reserves and the ability to lock, unlock or start the car or set the climate control via their phone.
But from 2017, Volvo will be offering its cars key-free and it's not a gimmick.
"We are not interested in technology for the sake of technology. New technology has to make our customers' lives easier and save them time," said Henrik Green, Vice President Product Strategy & Vehicle Line Management at Volvo Cars.
Instead, by using an app and a Bluetooth connection for locking, unlocking and starting a car, Volvo believes it can also unlock new features and services. "Mobility needs are evolving and so are our customers' expectation to access cars in an uncomplicated way," explains Green.
Car firms have started looking beyond the business of making cars and to the future of personal mobility and how to deliver services in a cleaner, greener way.
For example, Ford will be showcasing its FordPass platform at this year's MWC. It allows users to rent cars and to plan journeys that use public and private transport.
GM is partnering with Lyft to offer ride-sharing to its customers. But with Volvo's digital key, it is aiming to turn consumers' cars into an ad-hoc ride-sharing pool.
"Our innovative digital key technology has the potential to completely change how a Volvo can be accessed and shared. Instead of sitting idle in a parking lot the entire day, cars could be used more often and efficiently by whoever the owner wishes," said Green.
Owners could grant one-time access to their car to others or borrow another car when on business or vacationing in another country for instance. Volvo has already launched a service in its native Sweden where its customers can give their car's location as a delivery address for parcels and packages, and a digital key for all is a logical next step.
But how many more steps is anyone's guess. "There are obviously many permutations when it comes to how this shared key technology can be used," said Martin Rosenqvist, Volvo's New Car Director, Special Products. "We look forward to seeing how else this technology might be used in the future and we welcome any and all ideas."