Android 12 will let you start your car with a digital key — here’s how it works

Google Digital car keys Android 12
(Image credit: Google)

Update: This feature is now available in select countries, but only if you are the owner of a compatible BMW with a Pixel 6, Pixel 6 Pro, or Samsung Galaxy S21

You won't need anything other than an Android device to unlock your car soon, if Google has anything to say about it. At the company's annual Google I/O developer conference, it unleashed a number of new Android features aimed at improving connectivity with your car. Chief among them is a digital car key in Android 12 that will support BMW and other upcoming models.

That's right — you'll be able lock and unlock your vehicle, start it remotely, and even lend your digital key to friends and family borrowing your car. How posh.

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Like a few other things we're seeing lately, the digital car key will use Ultra Wideband (UWB) technology to communicate with your car. In fact, you may not even have to take your phone out of your pocket to reap the benefits of this newfound Android 12 capability. 

If your car has NFC-enabled locks, you can tap your phone to the reader to unlock your vehicle. And when someone is borrowing the car, you can temporarily lend them a digital key of their own to get by.

You'll only see digital car keys come to Pixels and select Galaxy devices for now. While I'm sure few people will clamor for the chance to try this feature out, there will only be a small slice of the population who can even take advantage of this right away. And call me paranoid, but the whole thing makes me a little nervous — at least, you should be able to have backup fob in case your phone is dead or otherwise inoperable.

Digital keys aren't Google's only focus on connectivity. The company also introduced Bluetooth Fast Pair for more devices, which will let you pair your phone to even more devices with a single tap. That will now include certain car models, not to mention Beats headphones.

Supported car makers will include BMW and Ford for Google's Bluetooth Fair Pair feature, which spars you from having to deal with menus and confirmation dialogs. All of these will join the huge list of Fast Pair enabled devices that you can enjoy.

This is just a piece of all that Google has announced at I/O. We've got a lot more to learn, so stay tuned for more.

Jordan Palmer
Phones Editor

Jordan is the Phones Editor for Tom's Guide, covering all things phone-related. He's written about phones for over six years and plans to continue for a long while to come. He loves nothing more than relaxing in his home with a book, game, or his latest personal writing project. Jordan likes finding new things to dive into, from books and games to new mechanical keyboard switches and fun keycap sets. Outside of work, you can find him poring over open-source software and his studies.