Keyless entry – it’s all the rage. Why even my Renault has it. And you can see why it’s proving popular as you rarely have to get the key (if it should still be called a key) out of your pocket or bag and the car just unlocks, starts, drives and locks again after.
But is there a downside? Yes, in a word – security. For example, devices are available that boost the signal between the car and fob that can then mean the car thinks the owner is within proximity and allows the doors to be opened, belongings to be removed and potentially for the car to be started and driven away aka stolen.
This seems to be what happened to a colleague of mine. His brand new E-Class was parked outside a restaurant with the fob inside about 10 yards away from the car which should mean it’s out of range. The car was taken without any fuss or commotion. It appears that some security function did kick as the car was later found in a nearby car park, apparently having gone into limp home mode but it could easily have been put on a truck never to be seen again.
Fortunately, the insurance companies don’t seem to be treating these vehicles as higher risk and therefore there’s no current impact on premiums but a flood of claims could easily change this status.
There’s another potential issue when a car is shared by two or more drivers. Another friend of mine was test driving a BMW for a few days. One one of the days her other half drove initially and then she took over the driving, leaving him at home. The engine wasn’t stopped as he got out and she moved seats. You can probably guess where this is going. A straightforward drive to Meadowhall was followed by a straightforward bit of retail therapy followed by returning to a locked car that wouldn’t have started even if the doors had managed to be opened. The fob had to be brought to the car in another vehicle. Fortunately, it wasn’t late at night and the car was in a safe place but it could have been very different.
What can you do to avoid such problems?
To avoid unwanted entry and theft, there may be a few options. With my car, if I lock it using the physical button on the fob, it has to be unlocked by pressing the other fob button which gets round the unwanted third party entry problem. But I forget to do this and other brands may work differently. I’m told that wrapping the key in aluminium foil blocks the signal and this could be an option if you have a spare key at home that rarely used but it’s hardly a solution for the main fob. You can also buy RFID blocking bags or cases quite cheaply but this also means you effectively have to stop using the keyless element as you’ll have to take the key out of the wrapper to either press the button or for the vehicle to pick up the signal.
I’m not sure what the short term answer is to completing a journey without the key that started the engine other than both drivers constantly carrying their keys but that’s not the solution if there are 3 or more drivers as cars tend to come with two keys only. Maybe we just have to remember to leave the key when swapping drivers but it’s not exactly foolproof.
Long term though the onus is on the manufacturers to beef up the security or ditch the technology. It could be simple improvements like the ability to switch off keyless entry or constant warnings if the key leaves the car whilst the engine is on. Tracker technology that kicks in if the car or van is driven without the key wouldn’t prevent theft but would facilitate recovery. Whilst most cars don’t have trackers fitted, factory fitted satnav which is fairly standard now does provide the basic technology. Perhaps the answer will be something such as a fingerprint or retina identification of authorised drivers with the system reset every time the driver’s seat is vacated.
For now though – be careful and stay on the alert! If you have any ideas or comments, please add them.
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