Tesla updates iPhone app to offer more accurate tracking and increased security similar to Apple AirTag tech

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Tesla has released a significant update to its iPhone app, introducing ultra-wideband (UWB) support in version 2024.2.3. This improvement, highlighted by the Not a Tesla app, provides a more robust and secure digital key experience compared to Bluetooth technology. UWB's precise tracking allows the car to determine the exact location of the key, which reduces the risk of replay spoofing attacks.

What are replay spoofing attacks?

Replay spoofing attacks involve cybercriminals intercepting secure network communications, then fraudulently delaying or retransmitting them to misleading receivers. Spoofing is pretending to be someone else to gain trust or gain access, steal data, or spread malware.

Improved accuracy and security

UWB implementation extends beyond just security measures. This allows the car to recognize which user is approaching the driver's side, especially useful in situations where multiple people with phone keys access the vehicle simultaneously. This level of precision tracking is similar to the technology behind Apple AirTags, ensuring accurate locating even in challenging environments, The Verge reported.

Although currently exclusive to iPhones, the breakthrough points to a potential expansion to Android devices, especially considering recent models like the Google Pixel and Samsung Galaxy phones that have UWB chips.

After updating to the latest version, users are prompted to “upgrade your phone key,” which grants the app access to nearby interactions via the iPhone's U1 chip. This setting can be found under Settings > Privacy & Security > Nearby Interactions.

Vehicle compatibility and future integration

Notably, only the all-new Model 3 and 2023 Model X currently support this feature, with future integration promising in new Model X, Model S and Cybertruck variants. Compatibility extends to iPhones from the iPhone 11 series, excluding SE models.

Additionally, Tesla's latest software update introduced Ultra Wideband support to improve the functionality of the built-in Phone Key feature. This allows Tesla owners to conveniently lock and unlock their vehicles using their iPhones, eliminating the need for a physical key.

With UWB technology, the Phone Key feature gets better accuracy, enabling timely detection of the iPhone's proximity to the vehicle for seamless locking and unlocking. The release notes emphasize the improved response of automatic doors with UWB:

“Ultra Wideband (UWB) technology for the Phone Key is now available. So your vehicle and the Phone Key can communicate with greater precision to lock, unlock and open automatic doors more responsively.”

To take advantage of this advancement, Tesla owners must own both an ultra wideband-compatible vehicle and an iPhone equipped with the technology. Activating the updated UWB key requires accessing the Phone Key section of the Tesla app, which must be updated to version 4.29.5, and following the upgrade steps provided.

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