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Apple updates CarPlay, rolls out digital CarKey

June 23, 2020

The bond between smartphone and connected car continues to strengthen with Apple's latest operating system for iPhone and updates to Apple CarPlay, the tech giant announced Monday at its annual Worldwide Developer Conference. 

Apple said its latest operating system, iOS 14, gives users a secure way to unlock and start their car via iPhone or Apple Watch. That digital key can also be shared with another person via a text message. Owners can give access to their car, and guests can drive it, bring it back—take it to the car wash and fill it up while they're at it. If a device is lost, the digital car key can be disabled.

The first vehicle to get Apple CarKey later this year is the 2021 BMW 5-Series, which was also the first vehicle to feature wireless Apple CarPlay. Good thing because BMW fobs carry weight.

Apple CarKey

Apple CarKey

The technology, which requires a near field communication chip found on Xr, Xs and later, as well as iPhone SE and Apple Watch Series 5, may be enabled in other vehicles. Next year, digital car keys with a newer, U1 chip will allow users to leave their iPhone in their pockets or bags to unlock the car by proximity instead of by hand. Many automakers offer similar digital car keys accessible via an app but they may not have the same logic or familiarity as Apple's operating system.  

Apple CarPlay iOS 14

Apple CarPlay iOS 14

Apple Maps continues to improve with electric vehicle routing that shows charging stops along a planned route. Working with manufacturers such as BMW and Ford, Apple said Maps will track the charge of the vehicle and suggest charging stations based on elevation, range, and other factors. Most EVs with navigation have a similar connected system showing chargers. 

Other updates include customizable wallpapers for CarPlay and new categorizations for apps. The update is expected in September, and will be a free software update for iPhone 6s and later models.  

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