South Africa has one of the highest rates of motor vehicle theft in the world. The rate is estimated at around 202 thefts per 100 000 citizens. This is around 2% of all vehicles, which is a staggering statistic.

Motor vehicle theft is on the rise due to vehicle owners leaving their car keys inside the car. The other major issue is remote signal jamming where criminals intercept the remote signal and are able to access the vehicle. Hence, motor manufacturers are looking at ways to eliminate the traditional key entirely.

Hyundai has announced recently that it will introduce a digital key instead, that allows drivers to unlock and start their cars via their smartphone.

The smart key system can work with up to four different phones. The technology uses near-field communication (NFC) to check if the approved smartphone is close to the car door.

After the car is unlocked, the driver can start the engine by placing the phone on a wireless charging pad in the centre console and press the engine start/stop button on the dashboard.

Other car manufacturers, like BMW and Volkswagen, are sure to follow this trend. Hyundai forms part of a consortium of car manufacturers that are developing a standard digital key system.

Others, like Tesla’s Model 3 also uses a smartphone digital key. The phone connects to the car via Bluetooth and unlocks the car when the driver is anywhere within 9 metres of the car.

The NFC range, in comparison, is only 4 centimetres, so the driver has to be really close to the vehicle.

Another nifty feature is that the system allows personalisation of the car settings and will automatically adjust the seat position, mirrors and the sound system to the specific driver.

Hyundai will show off the technology in its upcoming Hyundai Sonata 2020 model at the New York Auto Show in April 2019.

The shift in thinking comes as a direct result of the sharing economy when new vehicle ownership models are to be explored.

The NFC system also eliminates remote jacking as the range of the device is only a few centimetres.

Hyundai is also working on biometric vehicle access, ie. a fingerprint scanner but has not announced plans for this in the near future.

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