Starting next year, Volvo will become the first automaker to offer customers the option of replacing the traditional car key with a digital substitute using an app that can be downloaded to their mobile phone. Volvo claims this innovative Bluetooth-enabled “digital key” will allow owners more flexibility, performing all of the functions of a conventional key and fob while making it easier to participate in various car sharing programs. The company is currently conducting a pilot program using this digital alternative with its own car-sharing firm, Sunfleet, which is based at the Gothenberg airport in Sweden.

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In addition to making it easier for various members of a given family or group of friends to have electronic access a single vehicle, Volvo claims the digital key also can simplify rental car transactions by allowing customers to have a “key” for the vehicle at their destination transferred directly to their phone as soon as the original paperwork is processed. Upon arrival, they could merely find the vehicle in the rental lot using GPS and drive off without wasting time waiting in lines.

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“Mobility needs are evolving and so are our customers’ expectation to access cars in an uncomplicated way,” notes Henrik Green, Vice President Product Strategy & Vehicle Line Management at Volvo Cars. “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.” It’s enthusiasm notwithstanding, Volvo admits the new digital key initially will only be available on a limited number of its vehicles.

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