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You might be unlocking your car with Android 12 sooner than you’d think

If you drive a car released within the last few years, you’re probably already used to relying on a keyless FOB to start your vehicle. Even if it’s faster than inserting an actual key into the ignition, it’s still another item that could end up lost at any moment. For most of this year, Google has been planning a transition to a world where your smartphone could double as a car key, and it’s starting to sound like that utopian future might not be so far off.

The folks at XDA Developers spotted some new code in an update to Play Services, and it all seems to point to Digital Car Key possibly being ready for launch. Google announced its support for keyless cars back at I/O in May, two months after forming an alliance with hardware partners. With an Android 12 update for Pixels coming sometime in the next few weeks, it seems like everything is lining up just in time.

As for these strings of code, there are a couple of key takeaways here. Unsurprisingly, it’ll likely start off pretty limited, with only certain devices, cars, and regions supported at launch. Google basically said as much back at I/O, with only BMW shared as a partner at that time. Samsung’s digital keys have seen a similar slow rollout, so it’ll likely be a few more years before we’re all unlocking our vehicles with just a smartphone.

Once it’s live, there’ll be two options for unlocking your car. You can opt to use NFC to open the door with a quick tap, or your phone can remain safely in a back pocket while UWB takes care of everything. Like most mobile payment apps, you’ll need to have a screen lock set on your phone — Google Pay won’t save your digital keys to an unsecured device.

Users in supported regions will receive a notification about digital car keys once Play Services has been updated. Everyone else will have to wait patiently for it to arrive for their device — and, presumably, upgrade to a car that actually supports it.