For many of us, we absentmindedly grab our keys as we rush out the door, and almost before our car is even in sight, we firmly push the unlock button on our key fob. While we recognize the many security and safety enhancements car companies have placed into our vehicles on the assembly line, we […]
For many of us, we absentmindedly grab our keys as we rush out the door, and almost before our car is even in sight, we firmly push the unlock button on our key fob. While we recognize the many security and safety enhancements car companies have placed into our vehicles on the assembly line, we often don’t think about the same enhancements shrunk into our keyless entry remotes.
However, car companies have gone to great lengths to modernize the key fob to provide optimal security and convenience. Listed below are explanations on the intricate workings of a car key fob and the safety features embedded into its construction!
Once limited to luxury vehicles, this is no longer the case as most modern vehicles are equipped with a keyless entry system. The most basic of key fobs gives the ability of unlocking and locking all four doors of the vehicle, trunk release and also includes a panic button that will turn on the vehicle’s alarm system. How does this work exactly?
A small controller chip embedded into the key fob creates a code. This chip has a memory that can hold numerous possible codes (although this may vary depending on your vehicle’s make and model). When you push a button on your key fob, one single code is sent to your vehicle and requests an action. If the code matches the stored memory location inside of the car’s computer, then it grants this request. How’s that for a speedy info exchange? Some car manufacturers can provide a 40-bit code which can make for one trillion possible code combinations!
To provide additional security, a new code is stored and sent every single time a new button is pushed. This prevents the opening of unsynced vehicles and key fobs and prevents others from “hacking” into your car’s system, which had been originally reported when key fobs were introduced in the late ’90s. An additional security feature is the allowance of 256 accidental pushes, which could easily occur as your key fob bounces around in purses and pockets. Push it even one single time more and your key fob and vehicle will unsync — yet another safety issue to prevent unauthorized and multiple attempts to get into your vehicle.
More recently, the manner in which we turn on our vehicles has undergone the most visible change. A keyless ignition system enables your key fob to transmit a low-frequency signal to your vehicle’s computer system. This signal is always unique, and once the car’s system validates the code is correct, it allows you to turn on the ignition via a push of the button on either the dashboard or vehicle console. Many key fobs also automatically unlock the doors of your vehicle as you walk toward it. While convenient, both of these features warrant additional security measures.
The first of these safety features are pre-start checks that prevent your vehicle from turning on when you don’t intend it to. For instance, your engine won’t come on unless the fob is detected inside of the vehicle. Other requirements include ensuring the vehicle is in park and that the brake has slight pressure before actually allowing the engine to turn on. Lastly, the engine won’t just magically roar to life on its own; an action has to be taken, such as the push of another button or the flick of a switch.
Car makers are making the switch to keyless ignition start for many reasons but also to protect against car theft and vehicle break-ins since the car’s internal computer will only recognize signals from a programmed and synced fob. There’s no metal key to copy or steering column lock that can be forced open. Other advantages include the following:
- Can’t lock your keys in your vehicle. Most fobs will send an alert or prevent locking if it detects the fob is still inside the vehicle.
- Less likely to lose your keys because you can keep fobs safely inside of purses or pockets.
- Many fobs have a hidden key inside to unlock doors if the battery on your fob dies before you have a chance to replace it.
- Advantageous for drivers with disabilities such as arthritis because they don’t have to grip a key.
As with any new tech device in your life, especially a big purchase such as a vehicle, it’s important to understand the specific safety features in place to protect you and loved ones. A key fob may not provide the same safety that your vehicle can, but it can provide significant safeguards to protect against theft and improve convenience.