Keys started off as very basic metal plates designed to secure your car. They were easy to reproduce, simple to use and the technology was nearly universal.
The key technology is evolving though, and what was once a basic key is now becoming something more.
Most people are familiar with a smart key for cars, or fobs. These little remote devices can unlock your vehicle from a distance, open the trunk, and set off the panic alarm. Some fobs also double as a remote starter, though that’s still rare on many modern vehicles.
Fobs are still simple keys compared to the technology of the future though. Keys are still evolving and they’re going to get much more impressive.
Modern key fobs are evolving into digital devices that function more as computers than as remotes. As technology advances, car owners will be able to do more with their keys, and they may be able to stop carrying a key entirely eventually.
Modern Keyless Entry Devices
Many of the latest cars are coming equipped with special keys that never have to come out of the driver’s pocket. No longer do you have to fumble through your pocket to try and find the key while approaching your vehicle.
Instead, the key will unlock your car as you approach it, and a push-button will start your vehicle inside as long as the key is present in the car. These keys are simple in design, they’re convenient to use and they’re becoming very common on even basic cars.
Keyless entry devices still come with buttons for accessing the trunk and sounding the warning alarm, but you don’t have to pull it out for basic driving.
No More Locking Your Keys in
One of the biggest benefits of this new key technology is that you can avoid locking your keys in your car by default. The car unlocks when you’re close to the vehicle and it locks automatically when the key is far enough away from the vehicle.
That means it’s not possible to lock your key in the car any longer. If you’re regularly locking your key in your car like me, this is a powerful feature.
Some Luxury Keyfobs are Going Digital
Moving to keyless entry for some fobs was a nice step forward, but there are automakers that are shifting to digital fobs. These devices look like key fobs with little touchscreens on top.
A quick look at the BMW 7-series key will show you exactly what we mean. They’re sleek and modern, and they give you all the standard remote features, such as locking and unlocking the doors and opening the trunk.
Most digital fobs also allow you to enjoy automatic locking and unlocking as you walk towards or away from the vehicle.
These digital key fobs have a modern appearance and allow you to adjust different settings, such as how close you must be for the car to unlock.
Many of the digital display keys also offer additional information about the car, such as what doors are locked, and the current fuel range of the vehicle.
Lose the Fob For Modern Smartphone Smart keys
Tesla was one of the first automakers to offer a digital SmartKey for its vehicles as a smartphone app.
This special product enables car owners to open their doors, start the car and use the vehicle just like you would with a keyfob, but no fob is required. Instead, you only have to have your phone with you.
More car companies, including Hyundai, are beginning to test and implement this technology, and some are allowing multiple smartphones to pair and work with the same vehicle.
Eventually, this technology is likely to do away with keys entirely. Instead, every driver can use the phone they’re already carrying to unlock and interact with the vehicle.
Another benefit of allowing verified smartphones to interact with vehicles is that carmakers can provide additional smart features to users through their phones.
Eventually, users will be able to roll windows up and down, control the internal temperature of the vehicle and do much more all from their phones. These are features that won’t fit comfortably onto a standard fob today.
Unique Keys Enable Vehicles to Adjust to Driver Preferences
Automakers are also giving car owners the ability to customize their vehicle preferences, and this perk is connected to the modern key fobs and smartphone keys used today.
As soon as it’s possible to assign a different key to each vehicle driver, you can automatically adjust the seat position, internal temperature, mirror position, radio volume, and much more to suit a driver’s tastes.
These features are already bleeding into modern sports cars and ultra-luxury vehicles today, but eventually, they’ll be standard features on most vehicles.
If you currently share your car with your spouse, your children, or someone else, you probably know how tiresome it is to adjust the seat and the mirrors each time you climb in.
Having a unique profile established for each driver that allows your car to be set up exactly how you like it would make driving more enjoyable and convenient in families that share vehicles.
Consider the Biometric Key
Another way that some automakers are going is towards a biometric key design. Instead of using something like your smartphone, or a remote fob, the automakers are putting fingerprint readers or eye scanners in the vehicles.
These simple devices can be programmed to only allow certain drivers to enter, start and drive a vehicle.
A biometric-based key is a useful device because it means you won’t have to carry anything on you at all to operate your vehicle. Not only that, but you don’t have to worry about car thieves as much either.
Driving away in a car that’s locked to your fingerprint or your eye scan is going to be significantly more complicated than driving away in a car locked by a metal key.
While it’s already possible to outfit cars with biometric keys, many automakers still aren’t going this route and instead prefer to keep things as simple as possible.
This is partly due to older drivers not wanting to use the latest technology. It’s also about keeping costs down.
A Key that Can Bring Your Car To You
Along with having some of the most impressive smartphone key technology on the market today, the Tesla Model S key can be used to remote-control your car in a few ways.
Use the key to wirelessly tell your car to come over to you so you don’t have to walk to it. This technology is expected to evolve in the future to allow the key and the driverless technology to serve as a valet for you at any destination.
Imagine, having your car drop you off at your destination, only to park itself in an easily accessible lot several blocks away. When you’re ready to leave you can summon the car and have it come to your location before it whisks you away.
This would be the ultimate smart key if you ask us, and the technology is developing each year, giving us something to look forward to as the market evolves.
As car buyers demand more features and conveniences technology like biometric keys, remote valets or smartphone-based keys will become more common. Eventually, car keys won’t look anything like they once did and you’ll be left with a completely different experience.
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