Google is building a digital car key into Android 12, arriving on select phones later this year

Android Auto Instrument Cluster Integration
Android Auto Instrument Cluster Integration (Image credit: Google)

What you need to know

  • Google is working with leading car manufacturers to develop a "digital car key" in Android 12.
  • The feature will allow you to lock, unlock, and start your car right from your phone.
  • Android Auto is now available in over 100 million cars.

Your Android phone will soon work "better together" with your car. Google is partnering with leading carmakers on a new digital car key feature, coming with Android 12. The feature will make it possible for you to lock, unlock, and start your car using your phone.

If you have a phone that supports Ultra Wideband (UWB) technology, you won't even have to take it out to unlock or start your car. You can also easily unlock your car by tapping your phone on the door if it is NFC-enabled. Google says the digital car key feature will become available on select Pixel and Samsung Galaxy phones later this year.

Aside from the new digital car key feature, Google's Android for Cars team has announced that Android Auto is now available in over 100 million cars, and nearly every new car from popular brands such as Ford, GM, and Honda supports Android Auto wireless. Google is also working on bringing its Fast Pair technology to cars this year, which will make it possible for users to pair the best Android phones with their car with just a single tap.

Google is making it easier for developers to build apps compatible with both Android Auto and Android Automotive OS

Android Automotive OS, Google's latest "in-car experience" solution, is also seeing strong momentum. The Android Automotive OS experience enables the infotainment system to be powered by Android, eliminating the need for a phone to access services like Google Assistant, Google Maps, and more. The experience is already available on cars like the Volvo XC40 Recharge and XC60. It is expected to be available in over ten new car models from Volvo, General Motors, and Renault later this year.

Along with expanding wireless projection and extending Android Auto availability to more markets, Google is continuously improving the in-car experience with new features such as instrument cluster integration. One of the first cars to get the new feature is the BMW iX.

Another key focus area for Google is the Android Auto and Android Automotive app ecosystem. After releasing the Android for Cars App library as part of Jetpack, Google is now extending the library to support Android Automotive OS. This means developers can now easily create apps that are compatible with both platforms.

Babu Mohan
News Writer
  • A couple of connected dots say this suggests UWB in the pixel 6
  • Expect ones of car makers to jump on this like they did with Apple's capability.
  • I already have this via Bluetooth (and backup NFC) with my Tesla and it's brilliant!
  • Articles like this always leave me wondering. Given my experience with Android Auto and my Ford Ranger I would actually recommend to get the basics right before investing any dime on features like this. I have the second Sync module in my car now and whether I use my Pixel 5 or my old Moto Z2 Force doesn't matter. It varies but normally between 1 minute to 20 minutes into the drive the connection between the phone and the car gets lost, leaving me without any navigation, etc. Very very annoying. Forums are full with disconnecting problems with Android Auto. So please Google, fix that first, this is where you should invest your energy because it affects me (negative) every day. _mH