Volvo customers will be offered an application on their smartphones to replace the physical key with a digital one.
INTERNATIONAL - Allianz, Europe’s largest insurer, called yesterday for a unified security standard to be used when cellphones supplant keys as the means to open and start cars.

The company, based at ­Ismaning near Munich, said it expected cellphones to take over the role of car keys in Europe over the coming three to five years.

Standardising the security requirements would help ensure that car thieves were unable to profit from the switch-over, in which German carmaker Mercedes was already offering the cellphone ­option, Allianz experts said.


“We believe that in three, four or five years that this will be a broadly based offer,” said Christoph Lauterwasser, head of the Allianz centre for ­technology.

Allianz is calling for the copying of virtual keys to be blocked, with only the owner being able to issue permission for mobile phones to unlock cars.

Data transfer between a ­mobile device and the car must be subject to strong ­en­ciphering, and the system should have a protocol able to show who was driving any particular car, and when, in the view of the insurer.

At the start of the 1990s, Allianz responded to soaring vehicle theft by pushing for the immobilisers now common on cars. “We are looking at the virtual key in a highly similar way,” an Allianz executive board member said.