• Feb 28, 2008
The question "Where are my car keys?" hasn't left the building just yet, but is being shown to the door. Why? The arrival of push-button starters and smart cards in an increasing number of automobiles. Now that Nissan and Toyota have added button-starters to their high end Altima and Camry models, well, you know what that means: soon everyone's going to have them.

The tech-ification of starting your car is supposed to have at least two winners: car designers and consumers. Designers can put the starter buttons anywhere and even make them part of the car's appeal, like Jaguar has done on the new XF with a starter button that pulses like a heartbeat when you get in. Consumers will get a key that does more than just turn on the car, like adjust your seat and mirrors, turn on the heat, and treat you to free In-N-Out burgers. Ok, so not really on the In-N-Out thing. That's the next generation.

Losers -- if there really are any -- would be the folks who make keys and cylinders, and the consumers who lose their smart cards. Though key makers will lose some business, there are still plenty of cars around the world without push-button starters. For those who lose their smart cards, the locksmith and AAA won't help you any more: a $250 check to your dealer's parts department, plus labor, will be in order. In the new world, convenience, like almost everything else, will cost a bit more.

[Source: Automotive News, sub req'd]


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  • 15 Comments
      • 6 Years Ago
      "Now that Nissan and Toyota have added button-starters to their high end Altima and Camry models"

      If I recall correctly, it is an option on all of Nissan cars including the econo-box Versa (except the 350Z).
      • 6 Years Ago
      Sounds like the new 1958 Dodge push button drive....
      • 6 Years Ago
      Its not just the Camry... the new Toyota Corolla LE comes with push button start too! (at least it does here in Canada)
      • 6 Years Ago
      Okay, dumb question. What about steering column locks? How do they work in conjuction with these "smart" keys and how can you move your car if dies (like, out of traffic)?

      It's really early and I'm not quite awake, so be gentle.
        Leo Meres
        • 6 Years Ago
        Instead of mechanical tumblers inside the ignition locks - on the models that still use one - there is an electric solenoid that prevents turning unless released by the vehicle's computer system when the remote key is recognized.
      • 6 Years Ago
      You only get two. And its not 250 to replace, the guy that sold me my car very specifically told me to not lose any of them.....they can cost up to 600 to replace. I love it....just jump in and press a button. Oh, and its impossible to get locked out.
      • 6 Years Ago
      The author and many commentors have completely missed the point of the start-stop button...and Consumer Union is hopelessly confused on this issue.
      The law requires that every motor vehicle have a "key." After much OEM efforts with NHTSA, the "key" can be an electronic code entered into the vehicle's ECU. The advantage of an electronic code is enhanced security via immoblizers. Immobilizers have reduced whole vehicle thefts by an estimated 50%. (Fraud and towing are the lionshare of what's left.)
      Even with a start-stop button, there is a physical key-like device, not by law but for practicality (for now). When a vehicle has an immobilizer, there is no legal requirement in the US/Canada for a steering lock. Steering lock prevented almost no thefts but were a huge cost and sometimes failed.
      The electronic key fobs are more expensive than past keys, but they are proven to thwart theft, which benefits the consumer. Read your owner's manual and see the part about having a spare key accessible for emergencies.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Being a computer wiz here I know that FOBS such as building entry FOBS and MOBIL Speed Passes are absolutely copyable with low tech gadgets. Are these the same thing? If they are, bring your aluminum foil wallet to put your key in because they are VERY easy to copy via walking by someone.
      • 6 Years Ago
      i mean.. most of us still have house keys.. and id rather not drive with those in my pocket so either way im going to have to take them out..
      although i loved the pushbutton start on my s2000 but i still had to put in the key and turn it..
      • 6 Years Ago
      Technology for the lose.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Being in the north I'd like to not have to take out my giant gloves each time I got to get out my keys of my pants. (Or grab the windows scrapper btw...)hey that sounds just great, walk to car, open door and push button and start defrosting without having to step in and out! ahah! I love this already..

      And doesn't this make car harder to steal?
      As long as there's a keyhole in the doors for mechanical backu pI don't see the whole negative point of that.
      • 6 Years Ago
      This novelty was cool 10 years ago. Now it's just lame. Has anybody ever complained about using a key to start a car? If so, DIAF.
      • 6 Years Ago
      All the cars with these push button start and passive entry still have keys, at least for the driver's door in case you loose power. The other issue is, you're still probably going to have to take your gloves off because, at least with the Toyota systems, the sensor on the handle can't detect your hand very well through gloves. There's a capacitance sensor in the handle that detects your hand and unlocks the car. And, they can be cracked, but they're harder than a typical RFID badge because they use a rolling ID code that's reset every time you start the car. Even then, I think most of the systems will only handle 4 individual keys keys at a time.
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