How biometrics will enhance the connected car experience

biometrics in automotive

When we talk about the use of biometrics in mobile phones, we are mainly talking about its role in security. However, the use of Biometric Authentication has also added significant convenience and ease of use. A fingerprint or face recognition can remove the need to explicitly unlock a phone.

This convenience is one of the major reasons why consumers have widely embraced the use of biometrics. This will contribute to its adoption in the automotive industry. Drivers are already opting for cars with ‘keyless entry,’ but in the automotive industry, biometrics can be used for so much more.  

With modern mobile phones most of us use biometrics multiple times a day, be it to do things like unlock our phones or log-in to a banking app with a fingerprint. Whilst in phones the fingerprint is the primary biometric use, this doesn’t translate as well for vehicles.

The use cases in vehicles will be very different to those of phones. They have to take into consideration the unique environment inside the vehicle and the potential for driver distraction. 

The automotive industry is rightfully conservative when it comes to using this technology. There are concerns around connected car cybersecurity, privacy and how data is used. That said, the potential to significantly enhance both the user experience and safety are substantial.  

How biometrics will personalise the driving experience 

Biometrics are a tool that allows a vehicle to react to an individual. Whether to allow access to the vehicle or to enhance the driving experience. It isn’t about who you are, but what you want from your interactions with your vehicle.

Many vehicles can remember seat and mirror settings by associating them with the key in use. Biometrics allow the vehicle to remember settings based on a user’s face, and adjust them automatically to whomever is in the driver’s seat – so no more realising that you need to adjust the mirrors 2 minutes into your journey.

The most widespread mechanism for personalisation today is to link driver information to a specific key. This is now starting to move in the direction of digital car keys, which will provide the ability to link to a wider set of personalisation options. By using biometrics, personalisation can go far beyond just the standard settings supported today.  

Imagine being able to get into the car and it not only set the seat and mirrors the way you like them, but also knows to play from your Spotify account automatically. It would even be able to understand your mood. No more adjusting the entertainment system to suit your needs. If you are travelling with friends or family, the vehicle will be able to recognise them and look for music that you all like.  Similarly, if you share a car, it will recognise the other person’s face and play their Spotify list instead. This avoids polluting your profile with incorrect data resulting in recommendations that are not fine-tuned to your preferences. 

Music streaming is a great example of creating an experience that follows the customer. It can be connected to all devices, phones, watches, and personal assistants like Alexa or Siri, so why not a vehicle as well? There is also a commercial motivation for integrating other services into the experience, as the automotive industry can develop new revenue streams, including through the use of infotainment systems.

Like with any new technology that uses or analyses personal data, there are always concerns surrounding privacy which need to be taken into account. Security precautions need to be put in place to ensure any data isn’t leaked or stolen.  

Will biometrics replace car keys? 

A more immediate question is whether biometrics will be used to authenticate access to a vehicle, replacing the need for physical and digital car keys. While this is possible, it is more likely that the progression will see biometrics being used to provide two factor authentication (2FA) to access vehicles – for example, a similar model to chip and pin could be applied, with biometrics selectively used to re-authenticate the key holder. The number of motor vehicle thefts in England and Wales is falling, but with almost 90,000 thefts last year, there is still an issue to address.  

The more connected vehicles become, the more value they attract to thieves.  

In January 2021, we looked at who would hack your car, and it is a real concern. As keyless entry to vehicles becomes more mainstream, it increases the risk of theft. While the key technically has to be within 1m of the car, in reality thieves can amplify this signal to 100m (a relay attack). So, if the keys are in your house and your car is outside, it isn’t as safe as you would think.  

2FA needs to be applied, so the key and one other factor are in place. Biometrics could be the solution to these potential relay attacks. In addition to sensing the key, the car can ‘see’ if you are there as well and only open the car if you are present. 

How biometrics will drive advancements in autonomous vehicles 

As we move towards autonomous vehicles, an issue commonly raised is how and when a (semi)autonomous vehicle should hand back control to the driver. Or how to ensure that a driver of that vehicle remains in the driver seat and is alert, and that their cognitive load is not too high to be able to take back control of the vehicle.

With the introduction of Drive Monitoring Systems (DMS), biometrics has a role to play in helping the vehicle to understand how good of a driver you are or even recognise if you are drunk and shouldn’t be driving at all. Likewise monitoring tiredness levels, through techniques such as pupil dilation, or in heavy vehicles ensuring that drivers have not exceeded the legal driving limit, are all ways in which biometrics can enhance safety.  

Just as biometrics has significantly impacted safety and experience in smartphones, it can do the same in the automotive industry. It can address some of the current challenges around personalisation, increase safety and enhance driver experience.  


While biometrics can do a lot to enhance the driver experience, they are not a panacea. They will have an increasing role for security, personalisation, and compliance, but wherever biometrics are used there will be concerns over abuse and misuse of this highly personal data. It is important that the highest standards of security are used to protect data and retain customer trust.  

All data and biometric controls need to be held in a Trusted Execution Environment (TEE) to ensure that it doesn’t become like keyless entry and a compromise between security and convenience. At Trustonic we work with leading biometric companies across the global to ensure biometric data is protected in the most secure way. 

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