Keyless Entry On Fast Track For Future Cars
You won't even need to push a button on the now-emerging second generation
of remote keyless entry (RKE) systems for cars and trucks. The latest
applications of RKE are already on the market in Europe and certain models of Lexus
sold in Japan. There are three high-tech versions: a "smart card,"
fingerprint touch and a Star Trekkie recognition of the driver's images as he or she
approaches and leaves the properly sensored and coded vehicle.
The "smart card," (not unlike the ones used by many hotels) passively
deployed, opens a car's doors automatically and can replace the ignition key and
lock the doors when the driver exits. A fingerprint touch system does the same
without need for a hand-held card. Even more intriguing, says Ward's Auto
World Magazine, is a system which recognizes the image of the driver,
precluding the need to push a button, insert a key or touch a cold door.
French supplier Valeo developed the first RKE device for Renault in 1982.
It was the precursor of the popular pushbutton key fob, which Ward's says was
offered on nearly 70 percent of vehicles produced in the U.S. last year. A
Siemens-developed RKE card debuted on the 1999 Mercedes S-Class sedan, and a
Valeo version made its first appearance on a mass-market car - the Renault
Laguna II - in 2001. Ward's says automakers are trying to keep prices for the
optional system at the current $500-$1,000 level, which includes power windows
and power doors.
In a sophisticated application, the BMW 7-Series sedan uses an electronic
key inserted in the information panel to actuate the ignition. Who'll be first
with RKE in the U.S.? The Cadillac XLR roadster, due as a 2003 or 2004
model, was revealed in concept form at the 2002 Detroit auto show without key
cylinders in the doors and no ignition key slot on the dashboard. That's a clear
signal of GM's desire to keep abreast of its luxury-brand competitors.
That is, if "cards" don't become obsolete when "advanced biometric
recognition" arrives. Supplier Bosch says it's deep into research on face
recognition, retinal scans, iris recognition, palm scans and voice recognition.
Whatever, RKE is on a fast track. Of the 64 car lines, 29 offer RKE fobs, and of the
67 light-truck, SUV and minivan lines, 15 are on board. Those numbers are
sure to grow, Ward's suggests, noting that though RKE isn't needed like a
heater, drivers find it impossible to forgo once exposed - just like the PC and the