Biometrics like your fingerprint bring new safety opportunities for car manufacturers.
Biometrics like your fingerprint bring new safety opportunities for car manufacturers.
( Source: Porsche)

In-Car Experience Your fingerprint just might replace your keys and create a deeper in-car experience

Author / Editor: Cate Lawrence / Erika Granath

Car manufacturers are increasingly looking to biometric alternatives to car keys to create secure alternatives to keys and personalize the driving experience.

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As the integration between mobile phones and in-tech grows with the use of voice commands and voice recognition, car manufacturers have also been taking the lead from smartphones, exploring the use of biometric security. A fingerprint sensor replaces the need for PINs and passwords in mobile phones, both of which can be viewed or copied.

Biometrics brings security and a personalized driving experience

In December 2018, Hyundai released the world's first commercial biometric fingerprinting. The driver can unlock their vehicle by placing a finger on a sensor on the door handle. The driver can also quickly start the car by touching the ignition, also equipped with a fingerprint scanning sensor.

The company uses capacitance recognition, which detects differentials in the electricity level in various parts of the fingertip, thus efficiently preventing forgeries and faked fingerprints. The technology's chance of misrecognizing another person's fingerprint as the driver's is only 1 in 50,000, making it five times more effective than conventional vehicle keys, including smart keys. They also assert the use of a dynamic update system that enables the fingerprint system to continually learn and improve its success rate.

As well as driver authentification the technology also facilitates a personalized, customized driving experience. A vehicle upon identifying the driver via fingerprint data can also adjust to their driver's specific seating position and side-view mirror angles. In foreseeable in the future that this could extend to further customization, such as choice of temperature and driving music.

They're not the only company focused on fingerprints. Porsche have taken the idea one step further, announcing this month that customers who purchase a new 911 can have the bonnet personalized with a design based on their own fingerprint. It's arguably more about showing their printing prowess and catering for the kind of people who buy personalized number plates than anything else.

For those interested, there's also a range of DIY solutions. Identisafe have released a fingerprint Bluetooth CAN Bus engine immobilizer. It secures your vehicle without the need for cutting wires or adding after-market key fobs. It includes speed control enabling each driver to set their own speed limit by registering their fingerprint as an authorized driver. The makers suggest a parent can set a speed limit for their learner-driver children after scanning their fingerprints as authorized drivers of a family car.

Moving beyond the finger to the face

Eyelock's biometric Smart Rear View Mirror is a dual camera system that captures detail-rich, interactive 360-degree 4K video content of the entire surroundings, both in and out of the vehicle.
Eyelock's biometric Smart Rear View Mirror is a dual camera system that captures detail-rich, interactive 360-degree 4K video content of the entire surroundings, both in and out of the vehicle.
(Source: EyeLock LLC)

At this year's CES, Iris authentification company EyeLock, demonstrated their technology as part of an in-car wallet attached to the driver's visor. The SiriusXM e-Wallet will allow drivers and their passengers to make in-car purchases from coffee shops, find and pre-pay for petrol and parking, purchase movie tickets, seamlessly pay tolls, and more.

Eyelock has previously integrated their tech into a Smart Rear View Mirror with a camera and Artificial Intelligence (AI), developed by 360fly for the law enforcement and public safety sectors. The iris authentication ensures that only authorized personnel can operate the vehicle. The technology also acts as an officer interaction log. It records who is behind the wheel, fleet management, and time and attendance functions for end-of-shift procedures.

They're not the only company interested in bringing the face up close and personal to the car. Apple has previously applied for a patent in 2017 which expanded capabilities to in-car personalization such as temperature adjustment. The actual production was someone thwarted due to massive layoffs in Project Titan, their self-driving car division, in late January 2019. But their interest in cars remains—last month Apple's first beta of iOS 13.4 may include an unannounced feature as reported by 9to5Mac. Called "CarKey" API, it enables the iPhone and Apple Watch to unlock, lock, and start a car. According to the system's internal files, users will be able to use CarKey in NFC-compatible vehicles by holding their phone or watch near the vehicle in lieu of a key.

It's foreseeable that in-car fingerprint sensors and other metrics will come into their own to improve in-car payments such as paying road tolls and parking fees. They could perhaps act as an alternative to conventional multi-factor authentication (also known as 2FA) reducing driver distraction.

It's fair to say that no biometric system will be the cure-all for in-car security. As law enforcement already use facial recognition to force people to open their iPhones, it's easy to envisage a carjacker forcing entry into a car by holding the victim's fingerprint or thrusting their face towards the camera. With the criticism facial recognition receives from consumers it’s unlikely to be scaled without scrutiny. But it does show that there is space for a keyless future, and that in-car personalization will become a compelling selling point for consumers.