The Evolution of Key Fobs
The evolution of the car key over the last 10 years has been simply "fobulous." Literally and figuratively. Traditional car keys have been replaced by key fobs―those black, teardrop-shaped objects that lock and unlock doors, unlatch trunks, and mute inadvertent car alarms.
But just like computers, cell phones, and Britney Spears' marital status, fobs are rapidly changing.
The General Motors (GM) gear-tech team has developed a fob that even James Bond would find impressive. Aside from the usual opening and locking attributes, drivers can use this fob from inside their homes to gauge tire pressure, register odometer readings, check fuel levels, and even reprogram radio settings. Readings appear on an illuminated screen similar to that found on digital watches. In many ways it's like carrying a personal Pep Boy in your purse or pocket.
Other automakers offer fobs that feature driver memory, a handy feature, especially if you share your vehicle with a teenager. By pushing a programmed button your vehicle's mirrors, seats, and stereo automatically adjust to your personal preferences. This means no more jamming your knee caps against the steering wheel after your 16-year-old drives or being numbed by a deafening jolt of uber-techno music.
Mercedes-Benz offers a system that's so sophisticated pressing a fob button isn't even required. Known as Keyless Go and Smart Key, it allows drivers to unlock their cars by simply touching a door handle as long as a fob (for transmitting purposes) is in their possession. This may sound like an unnecessary luxury to some, but to people carrying toddlers or groceries it's a windfall of convenience.
Toyota has a similar Smart Key system made possible by seven strategically placed antennas. One antenna serves as a safeguard. This means if you inadvertently drop your Smart Key in the trunk, it will automatically pop it. Another antenna, located inside the car, allows you to start your vehicle by simply pressing a button.
Volvo has developed a hyper-sensitive fob system that detects heartbeats in seats. This way a driver can detect, before entering, if an intruder lurks inside, or remind a parent if they've left a child in the backseat.
Most high-tech fobs are currently limited to only high-end luxury models, ranging from $100-$200.
Losing a high-tech fob is a problem because the fob is specifically programmed for your vehicle. Unlike a regular key, you can't just call a locksmith. Instead, you must visit your dealership and provide proof of ownership before a new one can be ordered, which takes anywhere from two to five days. Plus, you'll be slapped with a high replacement fee that can top $200.Other Topics in This Section
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