Electric vehicle carsharing is getting major buy-in from Zipcar, Car2go, and others. What about EV owners? Automotive supplier Continental thinks there's a technology that could revolutionize spontaneous rental of shared cars – a smartphone app!

For short-term EV drivers who want to live off their smartphones, the opportunities are impressive. Reserving and unlocking EVs, getting them set up remotely for charging stations and reserving quick charging are just some of the smartphone apps Continental is working on.

This is all a bit more complicated than downloading an app. Continental is developing a digital car key wirelessly installed in a smartphone along with a special utility program for cell phones. Continental's digital car key exchanges data with the vehicle using near field communication (NFC). An encrypted forgery-proof data record is sent to the phone each time the vehicle is about to be used. The data is stored in the phone's SIM card and contains access authorization for that vehicle. The NFC verifies access to the vehicle and grants permission to start the engine.

For now, Continental is testing the technology in a fleet of vehicles in Bordeaux, France, with four other companies – Veolia, EVTRONIC, Mercur and Proxiway. The project's goal is to create solutions that small and medium enterprises could use for carsharing. As a technology partner in the project, Continental is launching a complete carsharing solution, including the smartphone car key, in-car electronics, and fleet management functions.
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Continental Tests Digital Car Key in Cell Phones for Electric Vehicle Car Sharing Fleet

03/26/2013 Everything via smartphone: Reserving and unlocking electric vehicles and hooking them up to the charging station. Continental to launch fleet testing of digital smartphone key in Bordeaux.

Regensburg (Germany), Bordeaux (France). According to the United Nations Population Fund, more people worldwide have been living in cities than in rural areas since 2008. A lack of parking space, short distances, and rising traffic congestion are prompting more and more city residents to look for inexpensive alternatives to having a car of their own. Car sharing and vehicle fleets at the workplace are shaping up as possible solutions. The international automotive supplier Continental is now making these offers even more attractive by means of a new key technology: A digital car key wirelessly installed in a smartphone together with a special utility program for cell phones could revolutionize the spontaneous rental of cars. Together with Veolia, EVTRONIC, Mercur, and Proxiway, Continental has now started a field test in Bordeaux with a fleet consisting of electric vehicles. The goal is to create an electric vehicle fleet, which different small and medium enterprises could operate in car sharing. The users gain access to the vehicle by Smartphone and, in addition, they can reserve quick charging stations via the cell phone app. As technology partner in the project, Continental is launching a complete car sharing solution, including the smartphone car key, the in-car electronics, and the fleet management.

"The smartphone offers users of the electric vehicle fleet in Bordeaux everything from a single source: the car hire station, the car key, and the charging station. The technology provided by Continental for the digital key makes the system particularly convenient, easy, and flexible for operators and users," explains Andreas Wolf, head of Continental's Body & Security business unit.

Carsharing via cellphone: Continental's digital keys in the secured element of the smartphone allow access and start of the electric vehicle and authorize use of the charging station, too.
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Near field communication and smartphone app: how the digital key works

The heart of the car sharing system is Continental's digital key, which exchanges data with the vehicle using near field communication (NFC). Continental sends an encrypted forgery-proof data record to the cell phone each time a vehicle is about to be used. Stored on the SIM card, the record contains access authorization for the respective vehicle. By means of NFC technology, the cell phone transmits the data (authentication, vehicle and diagnosis data, and user profile) across a distance of a few centimeters to an NFC reader integrated into the vehicle windshield. The NFC reader recipient verifies not only access to the vehicle but also permission to start the engine. The main advantage of using a cell phone as car key is flexibility. Users can rent vehicles on the spur of the moment and easily load the key data onto their cell phone. "New mobility concepts are becoming increasingly important throughout the world. Our safeguarded end-to-end systems approaches for conveniently accessing and starting a vehicle via smartphone make an important contribution to this trend. Our technology facilitates cost-efficient solutions that users can operate intuitively and easily," says Wolf.

One app makes car sharing quick and easy

A special app for smartphones makes it possible to rent a vehicle from the car sharing fleet. The user can use the utility program to find, select, and reserve vehicles in the city region. The smartphone can even navigate the user to the car's location. It's even possible to rent a vehicle spontaneously: As soon as the user holds his or her cell phone against a free car, a digital key is generated and sent to the smartphone once an availability check has been carried out on the server. The digital key unlocks the car and, depending on how it is programmed, the app retrieves further data on the condition of the vehicle, before switching to a convenient navigation system. The same principles allow users to reserve a charging station time slot by cell phone app, identify themselves with their cell phone via NFC, and initiate the quick charging process.


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