Volvo to sell keyless cars from 2017

Forever fumbling in your pockets for your car keys? Volvo has the answer – it’ll be selling cars without keys from as soon as next year.

When we say ‘keyless’, we really mean keyless. In conventional automotive parlance that means you carry around a chunky fob which the car detects and lets you open the doors and start the engine with. But that’s still a bit, well, key-like.

No, when Volvo says it’s scrapping keys, it means you won’t need anything like a conventional key to open and start your car. Instead, you’ll use an app on your smartphone, which your car will detect through Bluetooth.

Like most good ideas, it’s not actually that clever. But it will make your life easier, as Volvo’s VP product strategy and vehicle line management, Henrik Green, points out.

He said: “At Volvo, we are not interested in technology for the sake of technology. New technology has to make our customers’ lives easier and save them time. Mobility needs are evolving and so are our customers’ expectation to access cars in an uncomplicated way.

“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.”

And that’s an interesting idea Green nudges on there. The owner of the Volvo will be able to share a virtual key with anyone with the app. Visiting a strange city and need a car to get around? Find an available Volvo through a car-sharing scheme, trace it using the app, then get in it and start it using the virtual key. Fleet manager with hundreds of cars to manage? You could keep all the keys on your mobile.

The technology will be piloted this year through Volvo’s car-sharing scheme Sunfleet, based at Gothenburg airport.

The manufacturer says a limited number of commercially-available cars will be equipped with the new keyless tech as soon as 2017. It emphasises that the technology won’t phase out keys entirely – keys will continue to be offered to customers who want them. But it does beg the question… what happens when your phone runs out of battery?