Drue Freeman, a senior vice president at NFC producer NXP, told Automotive News that his company, along with its competitors, has begun offering NFC tags and chips to automobile suppliers. He believes that the first NFC-enabled vehicles will go on sale in 2016, although Freeman declined to name the brands that will be the first with the technology.
NFC, which stands for near field communication, allows for small dollops of data to be quickly transmitted between two devices that are within touching distance.
With NFC integrated into a car's audio system, a Bluetooth connection could be established between the smartphone and the sound system with a single tap. Today, initial smartphone pairing requires the user to navigate a set of menus on both the phone and the car, while for subsequent connections the smartphone must have Bluetooth enabled around the time the car starts.
An NFC-equipped car could also, potentially, allow the driver to start the car with their smartphone instead of the key fob.
The technology been commercially available for nearly a decade now, and most top-tier Android phones from the Google Nexus S onwards, including today's Samsung Galaxy S5, HTC One M8, LG G3 and Motorola Moto X, all feature NFC capabilities.
The technology has only just catapulted into the mainstream consciousness thanks to Apple Pay, which allows users of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus to tap their phones against a checkout counter to pay for goods and services. Apple Pay utilises an NXP-produced NFC chipset that's included with this year's new iPhones, although developers are currently locked out of using the phone's NFC chip for anything other than payments.
In this year's reliability survey by Consumer Reports, in-car electronics were cited as the most common source of problems in new cars. When the tap-to-connect NFC technology does finally make its way into automakers' showrooms, it may help to improve the reliability ratings of new cars with up-to-the-minute infotainment systems.