UWB Based Keyless Entry Systems to Counter Automotive Theft Vulnerabilities

August 27, 2019 NXP Semiconductors

Volkswagen and NXP have presented future applications of the UWB communications technology in automobiles with the introduction of a concept vehicle. Keyless entry systems for vehicles are notorious for their poor theft protection – they can easily be tricked with relatively inexpensive equipment. Volkswagen has used UWB in this concept vehicle to ensure that keyless entry systems will be safer in the future. The focus is on secure access, but UWB also has a whole range of other worthwhile applications. 

To secure the radio link, the developers use UWB's ability to measure the "time-of-flight" (ToF) in order to determine a very precise location and distance between the radio key and the vehicle. Techniques which obtained access authorization by extending this radio link are no longer possible in this way. In addition to precisely determining the distance, Volkswagen also uses artificial intelligence to secure access. The result is a personalized, teachable access algorithm that not only uses an intelligent UWB car key but also recognizes the user's movement patterns and gestures. 

According to Volkswagen and NXP UWB offers a significant improvement over existing wireless technologies such as WiFi, Bluetooth, and GPS due to its very accurate localization capabilities. The ability to capture contextual information such as the position and movement of the UWB anchor, or to process the distance to other devices with an unprecedented accuracy of just a few centimeters in real-time, opens up a wide range of new applications. 

In addition to the secure keyless entry procedure, the two partners see potential applications for UWB primarily in the area of Automated Valet Parking / Indoor Navigation and Asset Tracking. The combination of radar and UWB also opens up new application possibilities. Examples are in-cabin passenger detection and park distance control – the latter an application currently dominated by the expensive and failure-prone ultrasonic technology. Last but not least, the development partners also see application possibilities for UWB in the area of drive-through payment, for example at restaurants or petrol stations.

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