Apple announced an upgrade to its iPhone operating system on Monday that will allow drivers to use their iPhones as digital car keys to unlock and start their vehicles.
To get started, a driver would have to pair their iPhone (or Apple Watch) with a car that supports the new feature, dubbed CarKey. That would entail holding their device up to the car's near field communications reader, usually in or around a car's door handle.
Depending how a user sets up their profile, they may have to do a face scan or fingerprint scan to unlock their car each time they approach. They can also use an "express mode" to skip the biometric scan. Once inside, the driver's iPhone can be in their pocket or bag and still start their car.
Users of Apple's new CarKey will also be able to share digital keys with a family member or other trusted contact, via an iMessage, with or without restrictions. For example, a vehicle owner can limit the time that the recipient of a shared key has access to the car.
If a driver's phone goes missing, they can turn off the digital car keys using iCloud.
BMW is the first to offer Apple CarKey. The feature will be available to drivers of the 2021 BMW 5-series starting in July this year.
Apple said it is working with industry groups to bring its digital key capabilities to more cars and to establish an industry standard using its U1, or ultra-wideband chip, by sometime next year. CarKey will be supported by Apple's upcoming iOS 14 and the current version, iOS 13.
As CNBC previously reported, GM and other automakers have allowed owners to control certain features of a vehicle such as locking or unlocking from their smartphones for years. The Tesla Model 3 was the first to allow owners to use their smartphones as a key to drive the vehicle.
— CNBC's Michael Wayland contributed to this report.