Hyundai Motor Group develops tech that allows cars to be unlocked and started with smartphone

Key Points
  • The technology, which can be downloaded using an app, could replace a physical key.
  • The company is aiming to introduce the technology gradually, beginning later this year.
SAUL LOEB Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images

The Hyundai Motor Group has developed a digital key that enables drivers to unlock, start and drive their car using a smartphone.

In an announcement Tuesday, the company said the technology, which can be downloaded using an app, could replace a physical key. As many as four people can be authorized to use the digital key.

Near Field Communication, or NFC, technology, is used to detect the digital key when it's near a vehicle's door, unlocking it.

When the vehicle has been unlocked, the user places their phone on a wireless charging pad, presses the "start" button on their dashboard and the car can be driven.

The technology also enables a vehicle to store the keyholder's preferred settings, such as seat and mirror positions, and automatically apply them when their key is used.

Hyundai added that the key could use Bluetooth Low Energy technology to carry out several features remotely, such as locking, unlocking and starting a car's engine.

The company is aiming to introduce the technology gradually, beginning later this year.

Ho Yoo, group leader of Hyundai Motor Group's Electronics Development Group, said in a statement Tuesday that the digital key would enable "innovative new schemes for vehicle sharing."

"We are studying other ways to harness this type of connected-car technology to greatly enhance the driving and ownership experience," Yoo added.

The Hyundai Motor Group is not unique in developing technology that allows users to unlock a vehicle using a phone.

Customers of car sharing firm Zipcar, for instance, can use an iPhone or Android app to both lock and unlock their vehicle during their reservation period.

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