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Remotely Detected Keys

I have an 11-year-old car. I can turn off the engine by turning the key, without requesting that a computer turn off the engine for me. I never have to worry that the key is in not in the car but close enough for the car to detect it and start and that I’ll drive hundreds of miles from home and find that I don’t have the key and can’t start the car. I never have to worry that a thief takes advantage of that same possibility. I never have to worry that I’ll turn off the engine without touching the key and consequently leave the key in the car and get locked out.

If the engine were to go out of control, I could kill it by turning the key, which would physically move a switch and cut power to parts the engine can’t run without. This is a forceful command to turn off the engine, not a request that a computer might decide to ignore. Unless, of course, the engine control malfunction happens at the same time as a lock cylinder malfunction, which is possible but unlikely.

I don’t know much about these newer cars that can be started without putting the key into a lock. I’m interested in what is gained by this. In exchange for the safety and convenience factors I listed, what is gained with remotely-detected key starting? Other than engineers showing off what they can do, and owners showing off this apparently pointless feature, I see no benefit. Is the feature pointless? Is there a benefit to it? Are the problems I mentioned addressed?

It is just more examples of the designers getting their way rather than the engineers. Fancy stuff sells cars.

I’m betting it’s a cost saving measure, more than anything else. The electronics are probably cheaper than a conventional ignition cylinder.

I’m hoping to avoid a push button ignition system as long as possible, but it’s getting more and more difficult.

well, first off, unless you do something silly like put the key on the roof, then get in and start the car, you won’t leave the key behind. They’re intentionally designed to be short-range so that you have to be right at the car for it to work. If you leave the key in the pants you wore yesterday, the car won’t start until you go fetch it.

Second, here’s a scenario that flips yours: I have an 11 year old car. I pull my keyring out of my pocket to unlock my office door, and then get distracted by a phone call. I drop my keys in the lobby without realizing it. Later, I leave the office (the door auto-locks behind me) and head to my car, only to discover that the damn keys are now locked in my office. I can’t go home. If only I’d had keyless entry/ignition. The transmitter fob would’ve been sitting safely in my pocket, so I could get into my car and go home. Or call a locksmith from the hands-free link integrated with the radio.

Another scenario: I have an 11 year old car that starts with a key. The local gang member thinks it’s a cool car, so he slimjims the lock, rams a screwdriver into the ignition, starts the car, and now I no longer have an 11 year old car. If only I’d had keyless entry/ignition. The thief would possibly have made it into the car (setting off the alarm in the process) but wouldn’t have found any ignition switch to ram a screwdriver into. Even if he dives under the dash and hotwires the ignition leads, thanks to the fuel kill and the starter kill which will not allow the car to start unless the transmitter is detected, he still can’t start the car.

I remember when electric windows were starting to become popular, people said the same things. “It’s just stuff that’ll break. What if it’s raining and I can’t find the keys to roll up the windows. What if they break my kid’s arm because he doesn’t move it in time. What if, what if.” It’s new technology, and ours is a tech-driven society.

The point to the technology, other than the scenarios I listed above, is that you never have to fumble for a key again in the middle of a downpour. Touch the door handle, the car unlocks. Walk away from the car, the car locks. Get in, hit the start button, the car starts. No fuss, no getting drenched in a thunderstorm trying to remember what pocket your key is in. Excessive? Maybe a bit. But then technically so are electric windows, air conditioners, and radios.

So the car will not only start, but also unlock when the key is nearby. So at my uncle’s house, where a bedroom is right beside the carport, and the key could be on a dresser on the other side of a window less than 6 feet from the car, there might be no challenge at all in stealing the car. It might unlock with a touch and start with the push of a button. This, and the possibility of leaving the key at home, could be prevented, or at least mediated, if the car were programmed to die when the key became out of range.

I’m too young to be opposed to new technology. I recognize the convenience, but we need to account for various circumstances, such as making sure a car can’t be stolen, or driven away by its owner, while the key is nearby but not in the car. Perhaps requiring short-range proximity to open the door, and extreme-short-range (such as two feet from the center console) to start the engine.

I think we certainly should have a way to stop an engine. I don’t mean to overreact to reported problems that are probably mostly driver error but I think there’s a lot to be said for a switch that can physically break a circuit, at least until it’s shown that engine and transmission controls are essentially problem-free.

Thanks to everyone for the insight.

Toyota’s system uses 7 antennas. 4 in the doors to detect when you’re outside the car and want it to unlock (by touching the handle). 1 in the trunk just in case you drop the key in the trunk - it will automatically pop the trunk if you do. 1 in the trunk lid so you can open it without the key. And one that’s inside the car, and can only detect the key if it’s inside the car. So if you leave your key fob on your dresser, it’s remotely possible that you will be able to open the door (though probably this won’t happen, because even that won’t be close enough), but you will not be able to start it until you go get the key, and put it inside the vehicle.

The other car manufacturers that offer this feature have made similar safeguards.

If the car were programmed to die when the key went out of range, it would be horribly unsafe. What if the battery in the key fob died while you were on the freeway? The car would no longer detect the fob, and would shut off. You can’t have that.

Interesting. Thank you for the information. While I’m not sold on the value of it (I never found it difficult to turn a key), it’s good to understand a bit more how the system works.

I found stories online, the kind of stories that may or may not be true, but not much in the way of specific information.

I didn’t have a VCR until the 90s, or a computer until 2002. I guess I’m just naturally reserved where new technology is concerned.

My Mazda’s setup uses a little plastic piece in place of the key for it’s keyless start, so it’s like starting a car normally, but not. I’ve gotten out of the car while it’s running and an alarm will sound, warning me I need to get back in the car.
I lay my key fob on a small ledge in my house near the door, my car sits all of 10~15 feet away. I’ve tried to open the doors with the little button on the handle, but it won’t open if the key is inside the house.
Also, a warning light lights up on my dash telling me the key needs it’s battery changed. Green means it’s good, flashing green, battery is low, red is not detected or dead battery.
One oddity that I noticed is that I have a fluid level monitor in my washer fluid(it’ll indicate if I have low washer fluid), but only an oil pressure warning light. I’m surprised companies don’t put in a low oil LEVEL light, what with all these posts about ruined engines from Jippylube

Yeah, I understand completely. You’re talking to a guy who still owns his Atari 2600 and Comodore Vic-20 :wink:

Opinions like yours are probably why Acura offers their cars with tech package or without. If you don’t want the technical wizardry, you can start the car with a key like every other car. (of course, it’s still a chipped key, and so you still enjoy the anti-theft protections you would have gotten with the totally keyless system).

If the electronic key system fails completely, can the car EVER be made to run again?? And at what cost??

Considering it has no moving parts, it’s fairly unlikely to fail. But if it does, you just replace whatever died and it’ll work again.

I think some (don’t know how many) have a backup key option.

Hello there all you paranoid people.
Congrats on the hysteria you’ve built up in yourselves for no reason, whatsoever.

You don’t want a keyless car?
Don’t buy one.

I will keep enjoying my Nissan Altima, with its keyless system just fine knowing you won’t ever own a similar car.

So here’s the answers to your non-questions:

You can’t unlock the car unless the key fob is within several INCHES of the car. 6 feet away in the house, on a dresser isn’t going to unlock the car unless someone presses the button.

The car WILL NOT START unless the key fob is INSIDE THE CAR.
Some won’t even work unless the key is in the front seats.
Leaving it up on the roof in a purse isn’t getting the owner very far down the road, unless they are on a hill, the car is a manual, they push in the clutch, and release the parking brake.

If the car goes out of control, the driver is an idiot.
If the driver is an idiot, then chances are, they probably don’t know how to read their owners manual.
If they don’t read the owners manual, then they probably won’t know that the way to shut off the engine is to press and hold the Engine Start button.
If you don’t know how to press and hold the Engine Start button, then chances are the driver never got the car moving in the first place.
If the driver can’t get their car moving, then they are an idiot.

You do raise one issue.
Lets say you are driving to work, with your wife in the passenger seat.
You get to work, get out of the car, your wife gets in the drivers seat, you give her a kiss goodbye, and you go in the office, and she drives to her office, 15 miles away.

This is when she learns that you still have the key to the car in your pocket.
If she shuts off the car, she can’t restart it (probably too late at this point), and she definitely can’t lock the car. She can’t call you and have you bring her the keys, because you don’t have the car.

What do you do?
Make REAL GOOD friends with the UPS/Fed Ex guy, and have him bring it over to her before the day is over.

Why is this a good feature?
Because the cars with these keyless systems are suffering lower rates of theft, which save me money on full coverage insurance. I don’t have to worry as much about someone wanting to steal my car at night.

Lets also say that I wanted to trade in my Nissan Altima for a Nissan Z or an Infiniti G37 coupe. They can program my Altima Keys into the new car, and I don’t have to change key fobs, and remove all the other keys from them if i didn’t want to. Only thing that would change would be the physical key insert.

Also, if my arms are filled with large, heavy objects, all I have to do is press the small button on the door handle twice to unlock all the doors, and fumble with the door handle a bit to get the object in the car.

If its raining, getting into the car doesn’t mean fishing through her purse to hunt down the keys in a torrential downpour for a woman having a really bad day. Just push the button on the handle, pull the handle, and hop in. Then start the car by pushing the button on the dash, and going home, to soak in the tub with the bubble bath.

Some of you resist technology advancements with every fiber of you being, and it’s just really, really sad. How did you ever upgrade from a bicycle to a car in the first place?

There’s your solution!

Buy a bike, and don’t drive anymore.
The only technology in use would be YOU!

I think that’s a great idea.
I’ll give you $5 get you on your way to making this happen.


The other solution to your problem would be to have your wife carry the 2nd key fob with her all the time.

Then, if your car is so equipped, it’ll even automatically adjust the seat, mirrors, and steering wheel to her preferences when she drives it.

The actual key is inside the key fob I have, not sure about some of the others. I just squeeze a couple tabs on the plastic piece and insert the physical key into the ignition.
With push button starts, I’m not sure how they’d work. I think someone on here said just pop the button off and there should be a key insert there as well.