Trucks at Work

Would digital keys offer opportunity or risk for trucking?

So Volvo Cars (which is not connected to Volvo Trucks anymore) plans to offer a truly “keyless” car by 2017 – a car that you unlock, start and stop via a “digital key” mobile phone app.

That technology – on display this week at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, at the Ericsson booth – will reportedly allow car owners not only to go “keyless” where the operation of their own vehicle is concerned, but will allow them to “share” their digital keys with others as well as access ride-sharing and car rental services more easily.

Henrik Green, Volvo’s VP of product strategy & vehicle line management, said in a statement that this Bluetooth-enabled digital key technology means sharing a car will become both simple and convenient. Volvo owners will be able to send their digital key to other people via their mobile phones so that they can also use the car, this may be family members, friends or co-workers in a company, he explained.

Such “digital keys” also means users could book and pay for a rental car anywhere in the world, with a digital car key delivered to their phone along with GPS coordinates for locating their vehicle, so they don’t have to stand in line at the airport, train station, etc.

“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,” Green added. “Mobility needs are evolving and so are our customers’ expectation to access cars in an uncomplicated way. For example, instead of sitting idle in a parking lot the entire day, cars could be used more often and efficiently by whomever the owner wishes.”

Volvo will be piloting this technology this spring via its car sharing firm Sunfleet, stationed at Gothenburg airport in Sweden, with a limited number of commercially available cars planned to be offered with this new digital key technology in 2017.

So what might the implications be for trucking?

Might similar “digital key” technology make assigning trucks easier? Could drivers be shifted between trucks easier using phone-based apps rather than assigning them keys?

In essence, could this make slip-seating drivers – a strategy long promoted by several trucking experts – easier and thus help boost fleet efficiency?

I would also guess a lot remains to be worked out on the car side of this “digital key” effort, too, such as cyber security needs. I mean, if digital keys can be hacked, cares get stolen. And if we’re talking trucking, that means the risk or cargo theft increases.

We’ll have to see how all of that gets addressed as Volvo prepares this technology for its commercial launch a year from now.

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