Earlier in March this year, Google formed the Android SE Alliance to increase the popularity and adoption of digital car keys and driver’s licenses to be stored on-device. Later at Google I/O in May, Google officially announced that it was finally joining Apple, and it would start adding Digital Car Key support in Android 12 to help unlock a supported car with your phone.
The company kept the announcement very short and brief, and it pretty much left all of us in the dark, making us wonder, when to expect to see such functionality to be added, especially now, that Android 12 has been officially announced to arrive soon. Fortunately, the feature may come sooner than expected in an upcoming Play Services update that may enable it.
XDA-Developers did an app teardown of the latest Google Play Services update (v21.39.15), and they found several new references related to the Digital Car Key functionality. We still don’t have any official word on when the update may hit devices, but it’s likely that we’ll see the update roll out later when Android 12 becomes available on Pixel devices. Also, keep in mind that APK teardowns cannot predict the future, and features can and are often pulled at any given moment.
The references found by XDA-Developers highlight that the Digital Car Keys feature will use NFC to help unlock a vehicle. The code also tells us that the feature will only support selected mobile devices and in specific regions at launch, although this may soon roll out to other regions in the coming months as it expands.
Once the update rolls out to devices, the Google Play Service will push out a notification stating the following:
“This will install the digital car key service on your phone. You’ll get a notification in a few minutes to continue setting up your key.”
The feature also reveals that users will be required to use a screen lock on their devices in order to take advantage of the Digital Car Key feature.
“For your security, all cards and digital keys will be removed from Google Pay if you don’t set a screen lock in the next 5 minutes.”
Suggesting that all digital car keys stores will be securely stores in Google Pay. The feature will use both NFC and UWB to unlock a car securely. The upcoming feature is expected to be available for both Pixel devices and select Samsung Galaxy devices.