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Did the Ignition Key Just Die? 865

Posted by samzenpus
from the push-of-a-button dept.
cartechboy (2660665) writes "Do you still use a metal key to start your vehicle? We already knew this was old tech at this point, but now it might fully be killed off. In the wake of General Motors' 'Switchgate' fiasco, we've heard the CEO tell a Congressional committee that the recall may force GM to ditch ignition keys altogether in favor of push-button systems. If this became a reality, it would end decades of complaints from customers. Bloomberg approximates at least 18,000 complaints have been filed since NHTSA was formed in 1970, peaking at more than 2,000 in the year 2000. Those complaints resulted in roughly 21 million vehicles being recalled. The push-button ignition isn't perfect, but we know electrical trumps mechanical more often than not. Are you ready for an era where the ignition key doesn't exist?"
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Did the Ignition Key Just Die?

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  • If not... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 05, 2014 @03:10PM (#46921891)

    Are you ready for an era where the ignition key doesn't exist?

    If you aren't ready for advancements in technology then what are you doing reading this website?

    Seriously.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      You'd be surprised. It seems every time there is change in the tech sphere, Slashdot is the first to voice skepticism and discomfort.
      • by GrumpySteen (1250194) on Monday May 05, 2014 @03:30PM (#46922151)

        Nonsense. Every time there's a change in the tech sphere, Slashdot is one of the last sites to notice, much less voice skepticism and discomfort.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by nitehawk214 (222219)

        You'd be surprised. It seems every time there is change in the tech sphere, Slashdot is the first to voice skepticism and discomfort.

        If not outright luddism...

        • Re:If not... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Monday May 05, 2014 @03:39PM (#46922275)

          If not outright luddism...

          My car only has a key interface. It never fails.

          I have a friend who has an electronic proximity thing (not push button). It fails occasionally. At which point she has to revert to using a key. And the key never fails.

          The issue isn't whether a means of unlocking/starting the car IN ADDITION to the key is "the future".

          It's whether any of those systems are as reliable as the physical key is and can 100% replace the key so that keys are never used again for cars.

          • Re:If not... (Score:5, Interesting)

            by JoelWink (1846354) on Monday May 05, 2014 @04:02PM (#46922553)
            Well, my old Ford Contour had a key interface that failed. The tumblers in the ignition simply wore out. No amount of graphite could bring them back to life. So, I had to have the ignition tumblers replaced, the two front door lock and trunk lock replaced, and the new keys programmed. Not cheap.
            • Re:If not... (Score:5, Interesting)

              by Wookact (2804191) on Monday May 05, 2014 @04:16PM (#46922717)
              You could have replaced the ignition cylinder and then pretty much stopped there. You would have to have two keys then, one for the door and one for the ignition. Sure its an extra key but I bet you already have a number of them on your key ring. Programing the key can probably be done yourself. In fact the ignition cylinder usually isn't that hard to replace yourself either.
              How to program the key: (No special equipment needed)
              http://mcguirelocksmith.com/ho... [mcguirelocksmith.com]
              Replace the Cylinder instructions:
              http://www.autozone.com/autozo... [autozone.com]
              Cost of entire fix is 30 dollars, and maybe two hours of your time. The longest part is the programing which looks to take about 45 minutes.
              Now how much do you think it will cost to troubleshoot and fix push button system? At least three hours labor is my guess, and probably 200 in parts. So close to 500 bucks at a minimum? Give me the cylinder lock I can replace in the parts store parking lot for the win.
              • Re:If not... (Score:5, Informative)

                by mpe (36238) on Monday May 05, 2014 @04:29PM (#46922869)
                You could have replaced the ignition cylinder and then pretty much stopped there. You would have to have two keys then, one for the door and one for the ignition,

                It's actually a fairly modern idea to have the same key fit both the ignition switch and the car doors.
            • Re:If not... (Score:5, Interesting)

              by frisket (149522) <peter AT silmaril DOT ie> on Monday May 05, 2014 @04:26PM (#46922831) Homepage

              A mechanical lock that wears out the tumblers due to age or use is acceptable: you use it, it wears, you replace it after x years.

              A lock that randomly decides not to work because of unexpected component failure (read: shoddy quality) is unacceptable. What is also unacceptable is the ludicrous price of electronic lock/key replacement, and the reluctance of manufacturers to provide at least one (preferably) two spare keys with the new car, and their apparent inability to provide replacement keys (on their own) at all.

              Cars need to have a mechanical-only standby door lock/key, if only to let you into the shelter of the interior in emergencies, whether or not you can then start the engine. If manufacturers move to keyless operation, it will probably take many deaths before they provide a mechanical fallback.

              • Re:If not... (Score:5, Interesting)

                by kyrsjo (2420192) on Monday May 05, 2014 @05:18PM (#46923375)

                I thought most "keyless keys" actually has a small key clipped to it (or inside it), which will open the door.

              • Re:If not... (Score:5, Insightful)

                by Duhavid (677874) on Monday May 05, 2014 @05:43PM (#46923575)

                Very unacceptable, I think.

                I just bought a car off a friend. Got a good price on it, in part because the lock system would not work.
                Why didn't it work? The electronics. The door closed/open sensor system for the drivers door failed.
                In my opinion, it should be a "so what". But the manufacturer tied all kinds of "smarts" into it.
                Locks will not lock or unlock, because the system thinks the door is open. So, for weeks until I got it figured out and fixed, I could not lock it.

                And dont get me started on the two keys. I have to have two keys. One unlocks and locks as a remote, the other actually starts the car.
                Electronics again. And "you will buy expensive stuff from us only" pathology. The battery is dead in the one that starts the car.
                Sealed unit, have to cut the case apart to replace the 3 dollar battery. Made this way so they can charge, I think, about 250 for a remote/key combination.
                Yeah, I could get it fixed. 250 for the new key(s), then whatever ( lots ) the dealer wants for reprogramming things...

                Electronics are good, I like the fuel economy afforded by the engine controls.
                I like the remote, when it is working properly.
                And many others, I if I thought about it for a while. But I dont like how electronic systems are used to extort.


          • The traditional key in ignition device is mixing two distinct functions: authentication and mode selection.

            The link between the two and the mechanics of the failed device contributed to the problem. Wireless electronic proximity isn't necessary.

            What is necessary is a simple reliable device for authentication, a key which is turned to allow other functions to operate. For instance, keys used for industrial or military controls for this purpose. They look like ordinary keys, not the large vehicle keys now co
            • by FuegoFuerte (247200) on Monday May 05, 2014 @04:34PM (#46922913)

              How about the ability to turn to "off" to stop an engine affected by a stuck accelerator? Until the start button has a toggle or push button next to it to stop the engine, I don't want one anywhere near my car. And, when I say a button to stop the car, I mean a real kill switch that will ground out the ignition coil(s) or shut off the fuel pump or something similar, or for a diesel shut a fuel solenoid so the engine WILL die.

              If I lose power steering or braking I just have to steer or brake harder - ok, it sucks, but if you can't do that you shouldn't be driving. But then, I'm a firm believer that somewhere around 30% of the people on the road should have their licenses taken because they're either physically or mentally unfit to be in control of a vehicle.

              • by Jeff Flanagan (2981883) on Monday May 05, 2014 @04:40PM (#46922979)
                >How about the ability to turn to "off" to stop an engine affected by a stuck accelerator?

                This is the reason I oppose moving to a push-button system. We've already seen at least one person have an uncontrolled acceleration problem and not have a key to turn off. Push-button HAS to include an emergency cutoff switch. Requiring the user to hold in a button for several seconds to stop the engine is not acceptable.
              • How about the ability to turn to "off" to stop an engine affected by a stuck accelerator? Until the start button has a toggle or push button next to it to stop the engine, I don't want one anywhere near my car. And, when I say a button to stop the car, I mean a real kill switch that will ground out the ignition coil(s) or shut off the fuel pump or something similar, or for a diesel shut a fuel solenoid so the engine WILL die.

                If I lose power steering or braking I just have to steer or brake harder - ok, it sucks, but if you can't do that you shouldn't be driving. But then, I'm a firm believer that somewhere around 30% of the people on the road should have their licenses taken because they're either physically or mentally unfit to be in control of a vehicle.

                One of the things I hate since ATX power supplies came out is the lollygag force power off (and moreso disappearance of "Reset" buttons). Press and hold 1...2...3...4...5...OFF. The only thing worse is being in an out of control car having to do the same sequence. At least with a stuck accelerator you should be able to shift to neutral or de-clutch. Not only do modern cars have rev limiters to keep from overrevving the engine, many times if the car is in neutral or park it will limit revs to something like

          • Re:If not... (Score:5, Insightful)

            by TWX (665546) on Monday May 05, 2014 @04:23PM (#46922815)
            Dad's '40 Buick Super had an single-sided ignition cylinder (key with teeth on one side only) that was mounted to the metal dash. Hard to get at it to hot-wire it, but provided no steering lockout while the vehicle was off. That worked perfectly even when he sold the car around 1998.

            Dad's '72 Plymouth Barracuda has a single-sided ignition cylinder mounted to the column, so that it could lock the column when they key wasn't present. Worked fairly well, but occasionally if the front wheels were pressed against a curb when shutting off the engine it would be difficult to get the key to turn next time as there was excessive pressure on the steering lockout parts. Column is metal, still difficult to hot-wire, but not quite as hard as the '40 Buick

            The '93 Ford Thunderbird that I used to have had a double-sided ignition cylinder (key with same teeth on both sides) embedded in a plastic-coated steering column that was easily forced open, allowing one to reach the wires for the ignition and to defeat the already worn and not-really-working steering lockout.

            The '01 Dodge Ram 3500 Maxiwagon that I drive has a double-sided ignition cylinder, I can remove the key once the vehicle is started. This vehicle has all of those steering-wheel-mounted controls for cruise, so it has a much more complicated clockspring in what ironically is a much older tilt column design.

            The '95 Chevrolet Impala that I drive has a single-sided ignition cylinder with a couple of electrical contacts in it, which interface to "GM Passkey II" resistors located in the keys. This is supposed to make it harder to steal the car, but inevitably the contacts in the column or the gossamer-thin wires connecting those contacts to the computer will break, and the vehicle has to have the whole thing bypassed.

            To me, the problem isn't the key, it's the placement of the cylinder and the technology used to make special features of that system work. Put the cylinder back in the dash, make the steering lockout a function of the dash more than the column, embed the wiring behind a metal panel so that it's impossible to quickly hot-wire the car, and if you're going to have any special electronic stuff, build it to spec, not crappy. Do all of this and the keyring can be very heavy without making the cylinder wear out, and it's still simpler than using fancy electronic "keys" that have a tendency to have security vulnerabilities.
        • Re:If not... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by codepigeon (1202896) on Monday May 05, 2014 @04:02PM (#46922543)

          You'd be surprised. It seems every time there is change in the tech sphere, Slashdot is the first to voice skepticism and discomfort.

          If not outright luddism...

          I like to think of it as tempered opposition to running headlong towards the latest fad or 'next big thing'.

          "OMG this is going to change the world you luddites! Damn caution, full speed ahead!"

          • The Windows 8 interface being a case in point where there's overwhelming dislike of that poorly thought out mess but there are still plenty of people here in favour of it because new is always better.

        • Re:If not... (Score:5, Interesting)

          by ultranova (717540) on Monday May 05, 2014 @04:32PM (#46922887)

          If not outright luddism...

          But what's often forgotten is that Ludd was right. The Industrial Revolution really did cause horrible misery to many, to the point of making violent communistic revolution seem like a good idea. It was not until the unions and fear of another Red October restored some balance that the good began to outshine the bad.

          And yes, all machines - including cars - should have a kill switch that mechanically cuts off the power. Industrial machines are required to have those, so why should land missiles mostly operated by amateurs be exempt?

      • by damacus (827187) on Monday May 05, 2014 @04:23PM (#46922809) Homepage

        ... and how easily it is to do incorrectly. Mechanical doesn't have to mean "bad."

    • Re:If not... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by WaffleMonster (969671) on Monday May 05, 2014 @04:16PM (#46922723)

      If you aren't ready for advancements in technology then what are you doing reading this website?

      Seriously.

      Technology is a tool to get things done. Advancement in technology implies better tools to get things done easier/better/faster/cheaper.

      Never confuse invocations of "new" or otherwise throwing of transistors at a problem for technological advancement.

    • by Tablizer (95088) on Monday May 05, 2014 @04:28PM (#46922859) Journal

      If you aren't ready for advancements in technology then what are you doing reading this website?

      I'm using a steam-powered mechanical browser. (A redirection bug once killed our cat and blinded me for a week, and goatse stained the carpet.)

  • Help! Help! (Score:5, Funny)

    by GameboyRMH (1153867) <gameboyrmh@gmaiWELTYl.com minus author> on Monday May 05, 2014 @03:11PM (#46921895) Journal

    My throttle is stuck open and I don't know how to shut the engine down!

    • Phew well I crashed into a water barrier, I'm OK apart from a slightly sore face, close call! Anyway I can't get into this rental car because I parked near the source of some radio signal that's causing interference with the keyless ignition system. Can anyone recommend a good tow truck service?

    • by compro01 (777531)

      Push the button and hold it for a few seconds.

    • by kheldan (1460303)
      You raise and excellent point. There must be a manual override to shut down the engine (and perhaps disengage the transmission) in an emergency.
      • Out of curiosity, is the current key-based system actually such a thing, or is it effectively a mechanically troublesome button that feels like it actually clicks in to something important; but is no more in direct control than some horrible capacitive touch-area without even the slightest nod to tactile response?

        If it is, is it dependent on the key in some way that couldn't be replicated by a different sort of switch. If not, when was the last time that it was?
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by TheCarp (96830)

        Disengage the transmission? I have something that does that. Its called a clutch, and all the cars worth driving have them.

      • by bobbied (2522392)

        You raise and excellent point. There must be a manual override to shut down the engine (and perhaps disengage the transmission) in an emergency.

        Why? Doesn't the car drive itself while I text?

        Yea! that's the ticket, have the car stop running in response to a "STOP" text... Problem solved, except in those places where it's illegal to text and drive..

    • Shift to neutral and coast to a stop?

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by bobbied (2522392)

        You mean PUSH IN THE CLUTCH?

        OH, this is one of them new fangled automatic everything fancy automobile thingies.. Just yell "Whoa Nelly" and pull.

      • Re:Help! Help! (Score:5, Informative)

        by lgw (121541) on Monday May 05, 2014 @03:32PM (#46922181) Journal

        Indeed. Pushbutton ignition doesn't bother me at all. The shift-by-wire and throttle-by-wire elements I find more troubling. I've had a mechanical throttle stick - hooked my foot under the gas pedal and lifted, problem solved. I've also had a problem with a mechanical transmission where I couldn't get it out of gear (not a clutch problem, since you can always pop into neutral without a clutch), and that freaked me out.

        But my current car has an automatic shift level that AFAIK isn't mechanically coupled to anything. So "shift to neutral" requires computer cooperation in a scenario where we've started with the control computer losing its shit.

        There are well understood ways to isolate these kinds of failures, but we've seen that we can't depend on car designers using them. Hopefully the manufacturers will all get onboard with basic fault isolation (e.g., no matter how hard the software that's sets throttle position crashes, the software that responds to "shift to neutral" must be unaffected), before some series of crashes prompts a law.

    • by Z00L00K (682162)

      It may end up in a few accidents with push button systems before legislation takes over determining that the driver must be able to turn off the engine without delay whenever necessary.

    • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

      At times like that RTFM probably isn't the response you were looking for.

    • It ain't broke (Score:5, Insightful)

      by tverbeek (457094) on Monday May 05, 2014 @03:42PM (#46922313) Homepage

      This line of thinking – mechanical keys are not perfect and sometimes don't work properly, therefore we must replace them with something else – fails to take into consideration that whatever we replace it with will also not be perfect and will also sometimes not work properly, especially in new and unexpected ways that we are not prepared for. Fact is, the mechanical ignition key is a pretty well-debugged piece of technology. It isn't fundamentally broken, and doesn't need to be "fixed" by throwing it out and hastily replacing it with something else, especially something without a century of usage behind it.

      I'll be honest: I'm an old-fashioned person who liked having the ability to shut off a computer by physically opening the circuit that powered it (i.e. flipping a big crimson switch). As a tech, I get frustrated with equipment that has a "power button" that really only serves to put the device in low-power standby mode, such that turning it "off" and back "on" doesn't reinitialize it (requiring me to instead pull the power cable from the wall ... which only works if it doesn't have a battery). The "open the pod bay doors, Hal" approach doesn't give me warm fuzzies, mostly due to experience with the real world where new technology routinely fails to live up to the naïve expectations of the young and/or credulous.

      • The problem is mechanical trumps electrical. Old, used washing machines and dryers are in vogue because electrical systems fail too often, while mechanical times reliably create and break a connection. Mechanical systems have few moving parts and thus less entropy; electrical systems have thousands of components (including a mechanical push button) which may fail and cause aberrant behavior.

        Really, these electrical systems replace a dozen or so low-likelihood failure points with hundreds or even thousa

      • by cnaumann (466328)

        Some of the push button systems are truly horrible. The BMW 328i has two buttons, one labled 'off' and the other labled 'start/stop engine' As a bonus, the engine stops running (sometimes) when you push the brake and the car comes to a complete stop.
        Want to guess how to turn the car off? Shift to park, take your foot off the brake and push engine start/stop...

        Another fun fact. Guess what happens if you get into a Prius with the right key plus another Prius key? The wireless push button system does not work.

      • Re:It ain't broke (Score:5, Informative)

        by mjwx (966435) on Monday May 05, 2014 @08:03PM (#46924565)
        The way your current ignition works is mostly electronic. when you turn the key, it sends an electronic signal to the starter motor. Replacing it with a button, switch, dial, IR sensor or little hole where you can stick you finger doesn't change the way it operates.

        However your argument about the feel of it, I completely understand that and it's fair.
    • Re:Help! Help! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ArhcAngel (247594) on Monday May 05, 2014 @04:24PM (#46922819)
      I recently saw a distraught young blonde lady weeping beside her car. "Do you need some help?" I asked.

      She replied, "I knew I should have replaced the battery in this remote door unlocker. Now I can't get into my car. Do you think they (pointing to a distant convenience store) would have a battery for this?"

      "Hmmm, I dunno. Do you have an alarm, too?" I asked.

      "No, just this remote 'thingy,'" she answered, handing it and the car keys to me.

      As I took the key and manually unlocked the door, I replied, "Why don't you drive over there and check about the batteries...it's a long walk."
  • by ZorinLynx (31751) on Monday May 05, 2014 @03:12PM (#46921909) Homepage

    With a key, you switch it to 1 and can run accessories. You switch it to 2 and the ignition computer is powered. Switch and hold it to 3 and you crank. You decide exactly how to start your engine.

    With the newer systems, you just push the button and it decides what to do. You lose the control. What if you want to crank for a while because it won't start? What if you want to switch it to position 2 and push-start a manual transmission car? You can't.

    I like the standard keys. And really, just because one manufacturer happened to use a defective part, we lose them? Key switches have been around for decade and are reliable. Just fix the reliability issue in that one model and that's it.

    • by plover (150551) on Monday May 05, 2014 @03:17PM (#46921963) Homepage Journal

      In a newer engine, the computer controls all aspects of starting and running; timing, spark intensity, fuel quantity, mixture, etc. Holding down the key and cranking is no longer everything needed to start a cranky engine.

      • In a newer engine, the computer controls all aspects of starting and running; timing, spark intensity, fuel quantity, mixture, etc. Holding down the key and cranking is no longer everything needed to start a cranky engine.

        No, but sometimes it is an effective and useful diagnostic tool.

        Oh, right, we're not supposed to work on our own vehicles anymore, how silly of me to forget.

    • by Jaime2 (824950) on Monday May 05, 2014 @03:18PM (#46921965)

      What if you want to switch it to position 2 and push-start a manual transmission car?

      ... then you push the button twice without your foot on the brake. It goes to run mode just like the second detent of a traditional key. Pressing once goes to accessory mode. More presses simply cycles between accessory...run...off.

    • FYI, you can still switch it to the position to run the accessories and not start he engine. Just don't step on the brake, then press the button once, and you'll get just the radio. Press it again (while again not stepping on the brake) and you'll get the rest of the accessories/instruments, and a third press (again, without the brake pedal depressed) and everything turns off. Simple.

      Now, my car is an automatic, so I have not tried the roll/start on a manual transmission with a push button ignition, but it seems to me that with all of the accessories and instrumentation turned on, I don't see why it wouldn't work. And, as far as your point of needing to crank it for a while, if that's the case, there are issues that need repairing, so it's not as if you're being deprived of some designed, intended function of the vehicle.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by unixisc (2429386)

      Same here!

      With an ignition key, I know that I'm in control. If I step out of the car, I'd normally remove the keys (unless there were other passengers already) and do whatever I have to do before returning, knowing that my car would still be there. With the remote, even if I stepped out w/ it, leaving the car unlocked, anybody can just get in and drive some distance. Maybe he won't get far, but the damage would have been done.

      Not just your above points, but these remote controls now cost an arm and a

    • by Dahan (130247)

      In Nissans and Toyotas with push button ignition, hold down the brake and press the button to crank. IIRC, it keeps cranking while you're holding down the button, although I haven't really tested that much, since I don't want to keep the starter engaged for too long once it's actually started. If you don't actually want to start the car, don't hold down the brake; just press the button to run accessories. Press it one more time to turn everything on.

      I don't know if you can push-start a manual with this syst

    • by compro01 (777531)

      I like the standard keys. And really, just because one manufacturer happened to use a defective part, we lose them? Key switches have been around for decade and are reliable. Just fix the reliability issue in that one model and that's it.

      It isn't one manufacturer. There have been over 20 million recalled vehicles due to ignition switch problems, from basically every manufacturer, over the last 30 years.

      That doesn't qualify as "reliable" in my book.

      • by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Monday May 05, 2014 @03:35PM (#46922219) Homepage Journal

        I like the standard keys. And really, just because one manufacturer happened to use a defective part, we lose them? Key switches have been around for decade and are reliable. Just fix the reliability issue in that one model and that's it.

        It isn't one manufacturer. There have been over 20 million recalled vehicles due to ignition switch problems, from basically every manufacturer, over the last 30 years.

        That doesn't qualify as "reliable" in my book.

        Right, because it's not like there's ever been, nor ever will be an issue with push-button ignitions that may incite a recall of millions of vehicles, right?

        Wrong. [latimes.com]

        FYI, contrary to the summary's baseless contention, "Electrical" is not always greater than "mechanical." Otherwise, parking brakes wouldn't still be engaged with steel cables.

    • by gman003 (1693318)

      My car (2013 Fiat 500) uses an ignition key, but has no accessory position (which is REALLY annoying). It also stops cranking automatically - I cannot hold it in the crank position to keep it cranking.

      Trust me, even if they keep the current key system, they'll find ways to remove user control.

  • by kheldan (1460303) on Monday May 05, 2014 @03:15PM (#46921931) Journal
    Here's what I'm thinking:
    1. We're trading traditional car-stealing techniques for hacking techniques.
    2. Now instead of the otherwise mature, reliable technology of a mechanical ignition lock system, we're going to have to worry about zero-day vulnerabilities in a complex system?
    3. Another facet of vehicle security: What about the steering lock mechanism? If it's electrically actuated, then what's the point in even having it? It can theoretically be hacked like the rest of the car.
    4. Another approach to hacking your way into stealing a car: Manufacturer 'back doors' into the system? I'm thinking there'd have to be some sort of 'manufacturer access' backdoor built into the system, which once uncovered will just make it easier to steal a car.

    I'm sure I'll think of more later on but that's what I've got off the top of my head.
  • Was this created by a content farming script or something? OK cool, so no more keys due to 'switchgate' how about explaining that scandal a bit ?

    Or explain how the irritatingly passe use of appending 'gate' onto the end of anything resembling a scandal now applies to a car recalls rather than just political scandals.

    Also, how about explaining how a push button start would correct the situation?

    And finally; props for writing a summary that literally contains all the information contained in the article. (W

  • No, thank you. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pla (258480) on Monday May 05, 2014 @03:17PM (#46921949) Journal
    Are you ready for an era where the ignition key doesn't exist?"

    A physical key still unlocks the doors when the car's battery has died. A physical key doesn't itself have a battery to die, leaving you stranded in a blizzard in the middle of nowhere after you stop to pee on the side of the road. And perhaps most importantly - A physical key doesn't cost some $300 to replace when you drop it in a puddle. If that particular scam doesn't solely account for the auto industry's desire to move to keyless fobs, I have a bridge for sale.
    • Re:No, thank you. (Score:5, Informative)

      by geekmux (1040042) on Monday May 05, 2014 @03:42PM (#46922317)

      A physical key still unlocks the doors when the car's battery has died. A physical key doesn't itself have a battery to die, leaving you stranded in a blizzard in the middle of nowhere after you stop to pee on the side of the road. And perhaps most importantly - A physical key doesn't cost some $300 to replace when you drop it in a puddle. If that particular scam doesn't solely account for the auto industry's desire to move to keyless fobs, I have a bridge for sale.

      I've had my car for 7 years now. Two keyfobs. No keys. Replaced the batteries I think twice in that time. Works perfectly.

      If my battery were to ever die, my keyfob comes apart and within is a manual key to enter the vehicle with.

      If my keyfob battery is dead, there is a port in which to dock the dead keyfob to read the RFID directly and enable starting the car.

      Feel free to sell your bridges to idiots elsewhere. Consumers and engineers alike have given this just a bit more thought. Years ago.

    • Re:No, thank you. (Score:5, Informative)

      by Pontiac (135778) on Monday May 05, 2014 @03:50PM (#46922407) Homepage

      Clearly you have never owned a "keyless" vehicle.

      I say "keyless" because my Nissan has a physical key hidden inside the key less remote fob to open the door if the car battery is dead.

      If the fob battery is low the car will warn you. It's hard to ignore.

      If you are a dumb ass and keep ignoring the low battery warnings there is a slot under the dash for the fob to work when the fob battery is too low to transmit.

      For what it's worth nearly every car made today has some kind of chipped smart key that costs $50-$100 to replace plus a remote that will cost you $100 or more if you wash it. Key less or not dropping your keys in a puddle will cost you.

      Funny thing about keyless.. I never drop my keys trying to get into the car or start it.. They never leave my pocket.
      I can't even lock the doors if the key is inside.. the car won't let it happen.

      • by swb (14022)

        Funny thing about keyless.. I never drop my keys trying to get into the car or start it.. They never leave my pocket.

        It does lead to the occasional idiot moment where I walk up to my car and tug on the door handle like a moron and wonder why it won't open or I push on the start button and have nothing happen because I left my key in another pocket.

        I can't even lock the doors if the key is inside.. the car won't let it happen.

        This sorta bugs me; there are about two times a year where I want to start my car,

  • Those complaints resulted in roughly 21 million vehicles being recalled. The push-button ignition isn't perfect, but we know electrical trumps mechanical more often than not.

    Those recalls were predominantly due to issues which arose as a direct result of companies cutting cost by deliberately making parts weaker, cheaper, less durable, etc. It is simply naive to suggest that these same companies will apply more care or consideration when designing all electrical systems.

    All a switch to electronic system will do is replace infrequent mechanical recalls with increasingly more frequent updates of shoddy on-board software. Eventually, drivers will be expected to download and install car software patches themselves. Once again, company costs will be externalized at the expense of quality.

  • by mk1004 (2488060) on Monday May 05, 2014 @03:17PM (#46921957)
    So these key fobs that are used on push-button ignitions have their own issues. RF interference is one. A guy I work with had his car towed because he couldn't start his car, had a module replaced on car, only to find out that it was RF interference that was the culprit.
  • by StatureOfLiberty (1333335) on Monday May 05, 2014 @03:17PM (#46921959)
    I have one car with an ignition key and two cars with start buttons.

    Every time I get in the car with the key it goes something like this:

    Sit down
    Reach for start button
    Curse under my breath
    Dig through pocket for key
    Start vehicle with key.

    I'd love to be done with mechanical keys.
  • Using a key is so 19th century. Pushing a button? 20th century. Embedded RFID is where it's at. Get in the car; it turns on. End of story.

  • by khb (266593) on Monday May 05, 2014 @03:22PM (#46922031)

    SAAB dealt with this issue mechanically decades ago. Mechanical key in the center, where the handbrake is located. No stress on the mechanical switch due to heavy key rings.

    Worked very well, unless they had (have) a patent on it, seems like an easier more reliable fix.

  • I am so ready for all new vehicles with fob starters to come with three fob sets, by default.

    • by Albanach (527650)

      Most the cars I've encountered allow you to program a third key if you have the original two. Are there newer cars that prevent the owner adding an additional key themselves?

      The problem usually arises when people don't get a new key before losing one of the first two, and a $20 key becomes a $200+ key and trip to the dealer.

    • I am so ready for all new vehicles with fob starters to come with three fob sets, by default.

      Are you kidding? Hell, I'm having a hard enough time figuring out how to use the three shells...

  • by DigitAl56K (805623) on Monday May 05, 2014 @03:25PM (#46922079)

    Those complaints resulted in roughly 21 million vehicles being recalled.

    How many of these recalls would not have happened if the manufacturers listened to their own internal reports saying that the parts had problems? We can subtract GM's most recent 2.6 million for a start.

    Nice try, trying to blame the key type.

  • The last two cars I've owned have been Renaults. Not only do they key-cards, but they're wireless too. No need to actually dig them out of your bag! How can other manufacturers be so behind???!

  • It's 4040 lbs of deadly steel driven by fiery explosions, not a goddamned iPad!

    I guess a blue glowing "Start" button is acceptable for a Tesla, since that's all futuristic and stuff.
  • I'll miss it, but as long as there is a failsafe in place for getting into the car with a dead battery, which most already have, all will be fine. I do worry, though, about the ability of some people to figure out how to turn the engine off in an emergency. The runaway Toyota business was quite pitiful...
  • by Lumpy (12016) on Monday May 05, 2014 @03:29PM (#46922145) Homepage

    Instead of getting a replacement key for $12.99 now it will cost you $350 for a second key.

    The Govt needs to step in and tell them that the MAX cost to customers can not exceed $40 for the transponder and PROGRAMMING fees together.

    Honda rips people off with their keyless system $100 programming fee for their tech to spend less than 5 minutes with the tool plugged into my odb-II port.

    GM wants in on the rip off action now as well.

  • by tekrat (242117) on Monday May 05, 2014 @03:35PM (#46922221) Homepage Journal

    You don't want a car completely reliant on the electrical system. Batteries freeze, cars rust (killing the ground), cars wind up flooded or driven into a lake, weather can produce unseen effects.

    I for one, do not want to be in car like that after the electrical system has failed, and you can't even open the damn doors without electricity.

    I want a car that I can push start if needed. In fact, the less "electrical" anything there is in a car, the less there is to go wrong.

    When you go to a car show, I see a lot of cars from the 50's and 60's -- and you know what I'll see 30 years from now -- the same cars! You won't see "modern cars" sold as classics 30 years from now because once the computer in those cars dies, the car is a paperweight. Nothing works. The engine isn't even capable of running without all those sensors and computers.

    I'm rebuilding a '69 beetle right now, and I'll tell you that there's a certain comfort in knowing that I know the entire car, bumper to bumper, there's no mystery about how it operates, and I can fix any piece of it, myself, with common hand tools.

  • by jafac (1449) on Monday May 05, 2014 @03:40PM (#46922287) Homepage

    # "The unavoidable price of reliability is simplicity"
    -- C.A.R. Hoare

  • by Charliemopps (1157495) on Monday May 05, 2014 @03:45PM (#46922361)

    Electrical trumps mechanical? Electrical systems ARE mechanical systems. The problem wasn't the failure of the key, the problem was that if the ignition system turned off, all of the cars safety system would fail. That's an inherent design flaw that would be dangerous irrelevant of how you started the car. What happens if the alternator failed and the battery died on the interstate? The same damned thing. The car should still be operable without electricity. That's your problem.

  • by m.dillon (147925) on Monday May 05, 2014 @04:35PM (#46922927) Homepage

    I was driving down the street and noticed something odd about the car in front of me... the keys were dangling off the back of the trunk! We came to a red-light and I hopped out and tapped on the woman's window.

    She was rather startled but I put on my most innocent face and she rolled down her window a little and I said "Miss, sorry for startling you but your car keys are dangling off the back of your trunk!". She did a double take and then realized that it was true! Her button ignition switch had worked because the keys just happened to be 'close enough'.

    I said "wait a moment, I'll get them for you now" (I didn't want to get them first because she might have driven off and would then not have had her keys at all). I went to the back, got the keys, and handed them to her through the window. She smiled and said thank you.

    I went back to my car and managed to get my seatbelt back on and ready to go before the light turned green again.

    True story :-)

    -Matt

  • by TomGreenhaw (929233) on Monday May 05, 2014 @04:44PM (#46923035)
    With the Tesla you simply walk up to the vehicle with the proximity fob. The car unlocks and you get in and drive. No key. No button. The On/Off switch is the lever on the steering wheel column you use to put it in drive, reverse and park. When you get out of the car and walk away, it locks itself. You can also use a mobile app to lock/unlock, warm up car etc...

    After a year the only problem we ever have is leaving the engine running and walking away from our gasoline car because you get so used to how the Tesla works.

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