NEWS

Wearable Tech Offers Car Owners Latest in Remote Control

Hyundai_BlueLink_Smartwatch.jpg Manufacturer image

CARS.COM — In one of Hyundai’s Super Bowl 50 ads, actor Kevin Hart pretends to be a happy dad, handing over the keys to his car to his daughter’s date, only to spend the night using Hyundai’s Car Finder feature on his smartwatch to stalk them. Automakers are rolling out wearable tech that allows you to control aspects of your car through apparel. And you can expect more, not less of this, as tech advances.

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Some examples: Hyundai’s Blue Link app, available on both Android and Apple watches, lets consumers start or lock their car from any location, or flash a car’s lights through voice commands. Volvo’s On Call app and BMW’s i Remote App work with both the Apple Watch and Android Wear.

Why is this the future? Smartwatch wearers already get so much content from their watches, connecting with the car was a natural progression, experts say.

“We’re at the starting concept phase for the wearable technology and incorporating that interaction into the vehicle,” said Kristin Kolodge, executive director of driver interaction for J.D. Power and Associates. Remotely starting the car has been especially popular: Volvo’s remote starter was used 8 million times during the last year.

But like any new gizmo, there are catches. If you don’t keep your smartwatch or smartphone charged, or if your smartwatch becomes submerged in water, getting into your car won’t happen unless you’ve got a backup key. This will become even more problematic since some automakers, including Volvo, plan to get rid of the key and fob altogether next year for some models.

Kolodge said security is a looming issue as well. Hyundai requires users to enter a personal identification number to access the smartwatch’s functions. “If someone is in close proximity to you, they could start picking up data from your phone,” she said. Advancements in using biometrics, such as fingerprints, or facial recognition to access the technology could add an important layer of protection, she said.

“When it comes to cybersecurity, there’s no such thing as perfect security,” added Mark Boyadjis, an analyst with IHS Automotive. “Somebody will find a way to get in, but the risk won’t be any more than it is today.”

Wearable tech doesn’t come cheaply. The Blue Link system, found in all Hyundai models except the Accent, costs $297 a year, after the first year’s free trial, for the remote-access features included in the watch app.

Hyundai is considering expanding the number of features you can control as the technology advances, allowing you, for example, to activate heated seats remotely.

Feeling blah or happy? Boyadjis said further down the road consumers can even expect their car to anticipate their moods and respond accordingly. Incorporating biometrics, the watch could detect when you’re stressed and relay that to the car so that it plays calming music. If you find that comforting, of course.

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