Are Virtual Car Keys Safe?

Author: Auger Law | March 17th, 2020

The pros and cons of Apple’s new CarKey feature


In the early 2000s, luxury car makers began producing automobiles that were missing something – a key.

Like many features that first appeared in luxury autos, the dash-mounted push-button start has now filtered down to more affordable models. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, only 5,000 cars had keyless starts in 20021; Ward’s Auto reported that by 2013 that number had jumped to 4.4 million, and that number has continued to rise.2

Now, in 2020, Apple is introducing a new feature that has the potential to transform the automotive landscape. In the next iPhone and Apple Watch software update (iOS 13.4), CarKey is an innovative function that allows users to unlock, lock, and start certain NFC-compatible vehicles without a physical key or key fob.3 The “keys” themselves can be seen in the Wallet app — and even shared with other people, directly through the Messages app. You can permanently grant access to a car, like you might want to with your spouse or significant other, as well as temporarily grant access, to babysitters or guests. 

Although controlling your car through virtual keys is very innovative and convenient, it can sometimes be the reason of worry. Here are some of the pros and cons of virtual car keys.

Pros of virtual car keys

  • Virtual car keys make it easy to unlock, lock, and start your vehicle without needing the physical key or key fob.
  • Virtual car keys can be shared to drivers you trust. This is particularly helpful for a family that shares a vehicle. You can have multiple keys to a vehicle without purchasing additional sets, which can run anywhere between $300 to $700.  
  • Virtual car keys prevent you from locking your keys in your car. Your car will not lock if you phone is still inside.
  • Virtual car keys make it easier to keep track of your keys. Today, we always have our phones on us, and if we can’t find them, they can be called or pinged through an app. Now, your car keys will always be on you and easy to find. 
  • Virtual car keys eliminate the risk of thieves stealing physical keys, ensuring a heightened level of personal security. Plus, most of us use a password or facial recognition on our smartphones, which places our virtual car keys behind a very secure access point. 

Cons of virtual car keys

  • Virtual car keys can’t be easily given to valets or mechanics—yet—which means you will still have to use your physical keys in certain situations. 
  • Virtual car keys do introduce new cybersecurity threats that are not fully understood. For instance, it might be possible for hackers to access the virtual key of a car owner who has visited a malicious website or downloaded an app with malware.
  • Virtual car keys use technology that anticipates a driver’s arrival and unlocks the vehicle from a distance of up to 30 feet, which is shorter than a traditional key fob’s range. This means there’s a greater risk of the vehicle being stolen as the owner approaches or for a child to start the car while a parent is just outside the vehicle.
  • Virtual car keys become problematic if you drop and shatter your phone while out, or if your phone is lost or stolen. Interestingly, Apple claims that the new CarKey feature will still be able to work even if the battery dies.4

Are virtual car keys another distraction for drivers?

Although virtual car keys are not intended for use while driving, smartphone technology is largely responsible for the growing number of distracted driving accidents. In North Carolina, distracted driving causes nearly five times more crashes than drinking and driving. In 2017, 54,133 accidents in North Carolina were attributed to distracted driving.5

South Carolina ranks 5th in the nation for carless driving, with smartphone distractions being the primary cause.6  As a society, we are becoming more dependent upon our smartphones in everyday life. We text, email, scroll through social media, take photos, listen to music, watch movies, get directions, shop, play games, search the internet and use countless apps for nearly every modern company on our smartphones. Now, with even more functionality being given to these devices, we will become increasingly consumed with using smartphones in some way at all times. 

Fighting distracted driving is something all of us can – and should – be doing. To learn more, check out our blog on the 5 Distracted Driving Myths that Simply Aren’t True.

Injured in a crash with a distracted driver in the Carolinas?

If you were involved in a North Carolina or South Carolina distracted driving accident, it’s important that you contact an experienced personal injury firm right away. At Auger & Auger, we know that distracted driving accidents can cause serious physical, financial and emotional turmoil for the victims and their families. We handle the entire process from A to Z for our clients so they can focus on getting better and getting their lives back to normal. 

For the last 25+ years, our law firm has been trusted by thousands of clients involved in car accidents, motorcycle wrecks, and 18-wheeler accidents across the Carolinas. We have recovered millions on behalf of our clients and their families. Our attorneys go the distance to make sure injury claims are handled quickly and professionally so you can focus on recovery. 

If you’ve been injured, receive a free case evaluation today and find out how Auger & Auger may be able to help you! Call 855-969-5671.

Posted In: Car Accidents, Distracted Driver, Distracted Driving