Proximity keys have been around for a couple decades now, and my colleague Jason Torchinsky explained why they are bad over seven years ago, and yet they are still here. Apple’s CarKey, announced today as part of coming updates to CarPlay, isn’t much different or much of an improvement.
The key will debut in the 2021 BMW 5 Series, and it will allow your phone to unlock the car and, if your phone is present on a charging pad in the car (and probably if it’s not there but close enough), start the car’s engine with a button. Apple said in its announcement that the owner of the car can also share the CarKey to other drivers, including a mode that will let you restrict privileges designed, presumably, for sharing with teens.
The problem with all of this is that I have no use for it. There is no purer, simpler, or more wholesome pleasure in this world than putting your keys in the ignition and starting your car. The keys themselves embody a sort of accidental art, a physical object with which no app, no matter how slickly designed, can compete.
And while proximity keys are bad enough, this takes it a step further, because you’re handing over the keys to your car to a tech company. The privacy implications of that and the potential for hacking are two issues that I can only imagine, for now, the consequences of, but I’m pretty sure they won’t be great.
Which makes me question why we are bothering to do this at all, since we already had a system that worked pretty well: The humble car key, which was only ever improved upon when remote locking and unlocking became a widespread thing in the ‘90s. Sometimes, the technology is already good enough.