Pros and Cons of Keyless Ignition Systems

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The advantages and disadvantages of vehicles with keyless ignition systems installed, including carbon monoxide poisoning risks.

More car makers are considering keyless starting systems for their new vehicles. While these systems are extremely convenient and can ward off potential car thieves, you should also be aware of the potential risks if you are not familiar with their operation.

Keyless Ignition Operations

Keyless ignition systems allow the driver to keep the key fob in their pocket when accessing and starting the vehicle. When the driver leaves the vehicle, the car will also shut off and lock. The key is identified by antennas in the car's frame and a radio pulse generator in the key housing. Some systems allow the car to be automatically unlocked when the door handle or trunk lid are operated or after a button located on the vehicles exterior is pressed. The car will only run when the key fob or card is inside the vehicle.

Vehicles with a keyless system installed are required to have a standard keyed backup. A traditional cylinder can be operated by a spare key supplied with the vehicle. Some manufactures allow temperature settings and seat and mirror positions to be stored as well.

A signal from an invalid key fob can trigger an alarm system or even disable the engine. This way, if someone enters the car without a valid ignition key, they won't be able to drive away. Many keyless systems also use rolling codes. A computer inside the vehicle recognizes the rolling code projected by the smart key, and then verifies it before starting the engine. BMW's smart keys also use computer-encrypted microchips to ward off car thieves who want to exploit this technology.


Acura: Keyless Access System

Audi: Advanced Key

BMW: Comfort Access

Cadillac: Adaptive Remote Start & Keyless Access

Ford: Intelligent Access with push-button start

General Motors: Passive Entry Passive Start

Hyundai: Proximity Key

Infiniti: Infiniti Intelligent Key with Push Button Ignition

Jaguar Cars: Smart Key System

Jeep Sentry Key Immobiliser System "SKIS"

KIA: Keyless Entry

Lexus: SmartAccess System

Lincoln: Intelligent Access System

Mazda: Advanced Keyless Entry & Start System

Mercedes-Benz: Keyless Go integrated into SmartKeys

Mini: Comfort Access

Mitsubishi Motors: FastKey

Nissan: Intelligent Key

Porsche: Porsche Entry & Drive System

Renault: Hands Free Keycard

Ssang Yong: Smart Key System

Subaru: Keyless Smart Entry With Push-Button Start

Suzuki: SmartPass Keyless entry & starting system

Toyota: Smart Key System

Volkswagen: Keyless Entry & Keyless Start or KESSY

Volvo: Personal Car Communicator "PCC" and Keyless Drive or Keyless Drive


While the keyless systems make it difficult for cars to be stolen, with computerized controls hackers will be developing new ways to try to steal your car. Key programming tools and chips can be found online and may only be purchased by authorized dealers and mechanics.

A keyless car may be a convenience, but if a driver is distracted, it can be a lot easier to leave that car running without realizing it, experts say. And if that happens in an attached garage, it can be a deadly mistake.

Palm Beach County detectives are investigating whether this could have led to the death of a 29-year-old woman because of carbon monoxide poisoning in her home west of Boca Raton, Florida. Her keyless Lexus was found in the garage. A similar case occurred in Queens, NY.

Auto safety experts say keyless technology, introduced by Mercedes in 1999, needs to be examined, but they have too little data to know whether more people leave their cars running because they don't need a key.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports an average of 147 carbon monoxide poisonings a year, but it does not separately tally instances from cars with keyless ignition.

With newer cars that run smoothly and quietly, it is possible to accidentally leave the key fob in the vehicle while running. Manufacturers usually program an audible alarm, similar to the beeping you hear when you open your car door with the key in the ignition, but it does not shut the car off. Since most drivers are conditioned to turn the car off and remove the key it will take some practice to undo this training.

If you own a car with keyless ignition, read the owner’s manual carefully and become familiar with the cars operation and alarms so that you can be safe when you are in or out of your vehicle.



Kevin Anderson
Posted on Sep 26, 2012
Prajwal Shyale
Posted on Feb 10, 2011