Before starting what is, rather surprisingly, MotorMartin’s first piece of Volvo related news, it’s perhaps important to briefly explain where Volvo have come from as a company so that we can understand where they are going to. For those that don’t know, Volvo has been in operation since 1927 and today, Volvo tell us, they are one of the most well-known and respected car brands in the world, with sales of 503,127 in 2015 in about 100 countries. Volvo had formed part of the Swedish Volvo Group until 1999, when the company was bought by Ford Motor Company of the US and then, in 2010, Volvo Cars was acquired by Zhejiang Geely Holding (Geely Holding) of China. Since 2010 and under the stewardship of Zhejiang Geely Holding (Geely Holding.) Volvo would appear to be moving forward at pace nowadays with some really exciting new cars and technologies, with the following news catching the eye of MotorMartin as it points towards an exciting, new innovation.
Volvo have based their idea on the fact that for decades drivers have been accustomed to accessing and driving cars with physical keys and that this is an inconvenience that their customers can do without. In a ground-breaking move for the automotive industry as a whole, Volvo Cars have shared with MotorMartin that they plan to become the world’s first car manufacturer to offer cars without keys from 2017. Blimey!
Volvo customers will be offered an application for their mobile phones to replace the physical key with a digital key. With the application in place, the innovative Bluetooth-enabled digital key technology will offer Volvo customers far more flexibility, enabling them to benefit from entirely new ways to use and share cars.
Volvo has rather cleverly enabled the digital key on the customer’s mobile phone to do everything a physical key currently does, such as locking or unlocking the doors or the boot and allowing the engine to be started. After all, new ideas can take a while to catch on and become commonplace so offering functions that we are all familiar with is a sensible starting point for the idea.
This new technology, we are told, will also offer customers the possibility to receive more than one digital key on their app, allowing them to access different Volvo cars in different locations – according to their changing mobility needs.
One of the ideas promised is that by using the app you can potentially book and pay for a rental car anywhere in the world and have the digital car key delivered to their phone immediately. On arrival, a customer could simply locate the rental car via GPS, unlock it and drive away, avoiding those frustrating queues at airport or train station car rental desks. This would certainly give the digital key a USP that will attract the type of customer that travels far and wide and doesn’t want to waste time. After all, isn’t the point of new technology that it makes everyday tasks easier and quicker?
Volvo are also keen to highlight another area where their digital key will potentially make life easier as the app means that sharing a car will become both simple and convenient. Volvo owners, MotorMartin is told, will be able to send their digital key to other people via their mobile phones so they can also use the car. This may be to family members, friends or co-workers in a company.
Shared with MotorMartin was this illuminating statement. “At Volvo, we are not interested in technology for the sake of technology. New technology has to make our customers’ lives easier and save them time. Mobility needs are evolving and so are our customers’ expectation to access cars in an uncomplicated way,” said Henrik Green, Vice President of Product Strategy & Vehicle Line Management at Volvo Cars. “Our innovative digital key technology has the potential to completely change how a Volvo can be accessed and shared. Instead of sitting idle in a parking lot the entire day, cars could be used more often and efficiently by whoever the owner wishes.”
So when will this all become a reality for the buyer stepping into their local showroom? Volvo say that they will pilot this technology in spring 2016 via its car-sharing firm Sunfleet, stationed at Gothenburg airport, Sweden. A limited number of commercially available cars will be equipped with the new digital key technology in 2017.
“There are obviously many permutations when it comes to how this shared key technology can be used,” added Martin Rosenqvist, New Car Director, Special Products at Volvo Cars. “We look forward to seeing how else this technology might be used in the future and we welcome any and all ideas.” So get your thinking caps on all of you out there. What ideas can you come up with?
This is not the first time that Volvo have dipped their toes into the digital waters as Volvo is already somewhat of a pioneer with new digital key solutions. In 2015, the Swedish premium car maker launched the world’s first commercial offer to have online shopping delivered directly to the car by providing a one-time digital key to a delivery company. Now the digital key technology will also be made available for customers.
Physical keys will continue to be offered for people who want them as I’m sure they’ll be people out there that will want to see how the technology works before committing their hard earned cash.
Volvo’s innovative keyless car technology will be shown for the first time at the Mobile World Congress 2016 (22-25 February) in Barcelona at the Ericsson booth and I just wish that MotorMartin could be there to see it! Well done Volvo for continuing to push what’s possible and taking advantage of new technology as it becomes available.
Where will you go?