Future Hyundai cars won't require a key at all. The automaker has announced a new digital key that turns an owner's smartphone into a key to lock/unlock the car and start it.

It does more than those basic functions and basically preps Hyundai cars for the future of car sharing. The digital key can be easily shared with up to four people the owner authorizes via the smartphone app. When the phone is in range via near-field communication technology, the car receives the signal via the receiver in the door handle. A second receiver is present in the wireless charging pad inside the car to start the vehicle with the smartphone and digital key. Drivers can also remote start the car and sound the alarm like many other automakers include with their own smartphone app-based controls. However, not many brands offer phone-as-key technology.

The neatest tricks the digital key includes are the abilities to save each driver's personal settings. The digital key and car understand which user has accessed the car and saves mirror and seat positions, audio and climate controls, and even navigation destinations. With regards to car sharing, Hyundai said its vehicles will be ready to roll with the ability to unlock only certain features with the digital key. Owners can easily share the digital key via the app and set the duration for the car's use and only enable certain features. Alerts may be set when the vehicle leaves a certain area or when the car exceeds a set speed. Hyundai said the app can also be used to only unlock the trunk for package delivery as well.

Hyundai phone-as-key technology

Hyundai phone-as-key technology

When it comes time for service and something other than a phone is necessary for the owner to give access to the car, a standard smart key will be included with the car or a card-like fob.

The news of the phone-as-key technology comes after Hyundai announced last December it developed technology to lock, unlock, and start a car with the owner's fingerprint. However, it appears this particular technology will be reserved for Asian markets.

As for a timeframe for when we'll see smartphones take over as keys, Hyundai said it will begin to gradually include the tech with new cars starting later this year.