Tech Stuff

Today’s key fobs/smart keys provide convenience -- and cause problems

Today’s push-button ignition systems will allow engine starting as long as the “smart” key/fob is inside the vehicle within range of the receiver system.
<p>Today&rsquo;s push-button ignition systems will allow engine starting as long as the &ldquo;smart&rdquo; key/fob is inside the vehicle within range of the receiver system.</p>

In these days of vehicle owner expectations for their vehicles to perform tasks that would previously require a minor physical or mental effort on their part, the remote “key” has become a mainstay of late model design. Rather than inserting a metal key into a tumbler lock (obviously a task that requires far too much effort and manual dexterity), we now expect to press a button on a wireless transmitter to perform this arduous chore of locking or unlocking the vehicle doors.

Push-button ignition switches have also become commonplace, eliminating the need to rotate a mechanical key in an ignition switch cylinder.

Enter the wireless “remote” key fob, “smart key,” proximity fob or proximity card. Depending on vehicle make/model/year, this may look like a traditional “fob,” or a thin plastic card, similar to a credit card.

Note that a transponder key is not the same as a proximity fob/card. A transponder key features a small “chip” inside the key head that sends a signal to the signal amplifier and in turn to the ECU. This disengages the immobilizer system and allows engine starting. A proximity fob, or proximity card, merely needs to be in the range of the system in order for the system to allow engine starting via a push button ignition switch.

‘Smart’ keys

Call them what you will: keyless entry, smart keys, proximity keys, proximity fobs or cards, etc.

The car makers have been on a binge of offering “advanced” features relative to the unlocking/locking of doors, control of windows, moon roofs, mirrors, seat adjustment, radio presets, and remote engine starting via key “fobs” that are carried on the driver’s person.

A plethora of labels have been given to these gadgets. Following are the names for these systems per car brand.

Acura: Keyless Access System

Audi: Advanced Key

BMW: Comfort Access

Cadillac: Adaptive Remote Start and Keyless Access

Dodge: Keyless Enter-N-Go

Ford: Intelligent Access with Push-Button Start

General Motors: Passive Entry Passive Start (PEPS)

Honda: Smart Entry System

Hyundai: Proximity Key

Infiniti: Infiniti Intelligent Key with Push-Button Ignition

Jaguar: Smart Key System

Jeep: Keyless Enter-N-Go

KIA: Smart Key System

Lexus: SmartAccess System

Lincoln: Intelligent Access System

Mazda: Advanced Keyless Entry and Start System

Mercedes-Benz: Keyless Go

Mini: Comfort Access

Mitsubishi: FastKey

Nissan: Nissan Intelligent Key

Porsche: Porsche Entry and Drive System

Renault: Hands Free Keycard

Subaru: Keyless Smart Entry with Push-Button Start

Suzuki: SmartPass Keyless Entry and Starting System

Toyota: Smart Key System

Volkswagen: Keyless Entry and Keyless Start (KESSY)

Volvo: Personal Car Communicator (PCC) and Keyless Drive

An example of a keyless remote with proximity sensor is found in 2014 Honda models (their “Smart Entry System”). When the remote is on the driver’s person, and is within 32 inches of the driver’s door, the system senses an “OK to unlock” mode. As soon as the driver touches the driver door handle, the door unlocks (note that wearing gloves may prevent or delay door unlocking).

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