BMW’s NFC key and digital keys are now available in Australia.
BMW’s NFC key and digital keys are now available in Australia.

Massive change coming to your car

THE tap-and-go banking revolution is on its way to Australian driveways.

Car makers are introducing hi-tech key alternatives with NFC (near field communication) capabilities which could see conventional keys consigned to history.

Jaguar was the first brand to offer a useful key alternative in Australia with its activity key which resembles a chunky rubber bracelet, somewhat like a Fitbit.

BMW has taken a different approach with the NFC Key supplied with some versions of the new 3 Series sedan, Z4 roadster and 8 Series coupe, preferring a waterproof plastic card.

You simply tap it against the door handle to enter the vehicle, then press the start button once inside.

Tap-and-go motoring is here.
Tap-and-go motoring is here.

Prabhanjan Datar, BMW Australia's future mobility manager, says customers can also use their smartphone in lieu of keys.

For $129 per year, customers who buy a new BMW fitted with the brand's "comfort access" option can send a digital key to smartphones owned by friends or family members.

"You can use that phone to lock, unlock and also start the car," Datar says.

"You can walk around without carrying a physical key."

Customers can send up to five digital key to people with compatible Android smartphones.

Apple compatibility is not available yet.

Mercedes-Benz has a clever workaround for the Apple problem in Europe, where customers can slap a special NFC sticker onto the back of an iPhone to gain access to their car.

The brand will introduce its Digital Vehicle Key through the Mercedes Me digital suite this year.

Set to be available on new models such as the A-Class Sedan, CLA and GLE, the feature will also be made available as a rolling upgrade to other models equipped with NFC hardware.

Mercedes’s digital keys are on the way.
Mercedes’s digital keys are on the way.


Mercedes' car sharing feature requires owners to leave a physical key locked in the car before granting digital access to friends and family.

Volvo's On Call service is set to come to Australia in 2020, allowing digital car-sharing along with the ability for couriers to deliver parcels directly to vehicles using a one-off passcode.

Owners will also be able to set limits for speed and stereo volume when young drivers are at the wheel, something already possible through Volvo's red key.

Hyundai will offer a similar set of features to BMW including digital access and a plastic key, in lieu of smartphones by the end of the year.

Hyundai’s digital key
Hyundai’s digital key

The technology will initially be offered in overseas versions of the Sonata.

A spokesman for the brand says it is not clear which model will be the first to receive it in Australia.

Initially aimed at private customers, keyless access could make cars more attractive to commercial fleets and car-sharing businesses such as GoGet.