Pushbutton starting

Who'da thunk it? A pushbutton to start your car? Is this a step forward or a step backward? I am not really sure. What is wrong with turning a key to start your car? Is this really progress or technology for technology's sake?

There was a time when I considered installing a push button to start my car. Why? The alternative was replacing the ignition lock. There was an era in automobile manufacturing when they started to make ignition locks tricky and costly to replace. The prospect of a hidden switch and push button was going to save significant time and money. It also seemed like it might be cool? Kinda like a race car.

Building something strong enough to lock your steering wheel and to prevent your shifter from being shifted out of park unless the key was on and your foot was on the brake was a mechanical challenge. Obviously someone was dying to replace it with electronics.

Enter the smart key. I don’t know about you but I have yet to get comfortable with the smart key. I do not own a vehicle with one. My only exposure has been customer vehicles.

What is a smart key? A smart key (as applied to vehicles, according to Wikipedia) is an electronic access and authorization device that is available as optional or standard equipment on many vehicles. Siemens, a GE type conglomerate, is said to have invented the system in the late 1990s and it was put in production in the 1998 S Class Mercedes Benz vehicles.

The smart key now comes in many shapes and sizes (some credit card like and others similar to the key fob type remotes many are used to using). Unlike a regular remote, button pushing is not necessary to unlock or lock your vehicle with a smart key. As the key approaches the vehicle it belongs to antennas located within the vehicle’s bodywork allow communication between the remote and a control module within the vehicle.

Access may be granted just by lifting the door handle. Trunks may open by just moving your foot under the rear bumper. As the door opens the seat is moving rearward for easy entry, the seat heaters or seat air conditioning is turned on based on outside and inside temperatures. Sit down in the seat and touch the on button and the seat and mirrors adjust to the setting preprogrammed into the driver’s smart key. Provided the brake pedal and/or clutch is depressed the next twist of the switch on some or push of a button on others engages the starter motor which then cranks until the engine starts. Happy motoring!

Pretty amazing on one level. A little disconcerting on another. Is this all very necessary? What happens when it breaks? Good question. I fix it ….. I hope.

Many of these fancy smart key remotes still contain an old fashion key. It is usually hidden within and it allows unlocking the vehicle mechanically when the battery is too dead to let you in by electronic authorization. Then you can dig out your owner’s manual to find out the procedure to get your vehicle jump started and back in action.

As with all things new standard operating procedures for these systems is not the rule. Each has their own nomenclature and operating methods. I am still learning.

Personally I am still uncomfortable with these systems. You kind of feel a little out of control when you are six foot six. The door opens and you are greeted with a seat backing away from the steering wheel. There is a God. Comfortably take your seat. Push the on button. What is this? I am going to be crushed. The driver who own’s this smart key is one foot shorter than me. God does punish.

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