One of the many announcements made by Apple at their Worldwide Developers Conference being held online today was a bunch of improvements to CarPlay and the car and phone experience.

Apple CarPlay was announced six years ago, and in that time has reached now 80% of all new cars globally, 97% in the USA and probably a similarly high number in Australia. Car companies aren’t like smartphone manufacturers, they don’t release all-new products every year, in fact the new-car cycle for many cars is around six years, probably a good reason for the high inclusion of Apple CarPlay today.

In iOS 14, coming to iPhones later this year, CarPlay will get a new look. Wallpaper options to add some colour and personalisation to the screen will take away the bland black or white look currently.

Plus, there are new App categories like Parking, Charging and Food Ordering will be added.

Of course, those apps will need to meet the criteria Apple sets for minimal interactions and “glance time” for operation. A restaurant App, for example, would need to be a “re-order favourites” rather than just a full list of menu items.

Electric Charging apps might include Aussie ChargeFox, updating their app with a map and charge locator displayed on CarPlay screens.

But perhaps the most monumental change is one as big as CarPlay itself. The Car Key.

Gone will be the “bulky” keys of today, replaced by just your iPhone.

In the new 2021 BMW 5 Series, Apple iPhones with NFC capabilities (Apple Pay) will be able to unlock and start the car using basically a digital key in your Apple Wallet.

Down the track, working with the car industry, Apple hopes to utilise it’s U1 wide band chip to ensure that you can open your car without even taking your phone out of your pocket or bag.

And, like a Digital Door key, the Car Key can be shared in an iMessage. Send a key to someone needing to borrow or move your car, send your kids a key that has limited functionality perhaps.

This is day 1 of a very long journey, but it makes perfect sense, and could be the future of the car key.