As technology advances, our lives become more convenient, but are we also putting ourselves at risk? With this question in mind, we’ve asked Mark Barclay, E-commerce Manager of GSF Car Parts, to walk us through the pros and cons of keyless car technology to find out whether the convenience is worth the risk.
Cars are increasingly being manufactured with keyless locking systems, but recent figures published by the government show that car theft in England and Wales has risen by 15% since 2016/17, and 40% over the last five years (The i).
While modern keyless entry systems may be convenient, they are leaving our cars vulnerable to theft. So much so that vehicle tracking firm Tracker reported that 80% of all stolen vehicles they recovered in 2017 were taken without the owner’s keys, up from 66% the previous year.
In this article, I’m going to explain how keyless technology works and look at the advantages and disadvantages it brings with it.
How does keyless entry work?
Instead of a traditional key, you will have a fob containing a unique identity chip that listens out for signals produced by your car. When you press a button on the door or use the door handle, the car will send out a radio signal. If the fob is close enough, it will respond to the car’s signal, letting it know to unlock the door for you.
The process works in much the same way with push-button ignition systems: the car will only start if your fob is detected within range. Some models of cars have taken this idea even further, adding sensors to the back bumper that allows you to open the boot automatically by waving your foot underneath it.
Benefits of keyless technology
Whether you’ve got your hands full of shopping, a sleeping child to carry, or you can’t quite remember which bag you put the car keys in, being able to get into your car without a key can be a lifesaver. As long as you have the fob on you and are in range of your car, the doors and boot can be easily accessed at the touch of a button or the wave of a foot.
At some point, every car owner will walk away from their car and forget whether or not they’ve actually locked it. With some keyless technology, you don’t have to worry about that as the car will automatically lock itself once the fob is out of reach. This handy feature eliminates the chance of ever accidentally leaving your car unlocked and unattended.
Some more advanced features include car climate and radio presets for different users, allowing different fobs to have different in-car preferences. Some even allow you to set speed limits for certain fobs, ideal for parents who want to make sure their kids aren’t getting into any trouble when they borrow the car.
As with any new advances, there are some downsides to keyless technology that you will have to consider. While keyless fobs are undoubtedly safer from traditional forms of theft, such as lockpicking, the main concern stems from the possibility for hackers to manipulate the technology and steal your vehicle. Because of the way that keyless technology works, hackers can use specialist programmes to trick your car into thinking that the correct fob is nearby, allowing them easy access.
Another potential risk comes from the fact that your car’s engine won’t automatically switch off when you are out of range. This is actually a safety feature, designed to prevent you from getting stranded if your fob happens to run out of battery while you’re out and about. An unintended side effect of this occurs if someone accidentally takes your fob with them after you drop them off. You’ll still be able to drive away as the ignition will be on, but you won’t later be able to start the car again.
As technology continues to improve, manufacturers will find new ways to iron out the problems associated with keyless technology. Will it ever be perfect? It’s unlikely, but it is the way the industry is heading.