An App Instead of a Key?

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Some things makes sense. Other things are just expensive.

Others are merely creepy.

Let’s start with the first. app1

Does it make sense to do away with car keys entirely? Physical keys, I mean?

Metal keys have already – mostly – been done away with. A majority of new cars have electronic key fobs instead. A transmitter you keep in your pocket or purse and a push-button ignition inside the car.

This is convenient but you still have to carry the fob around.

It’s also expensive.

Most people don’t realize this until they need a new

Replacement metal keys could be cut at any hardware store for less than $10. Also, they pretty much lasted forever. (I still have the factory-original ignition and door lock keys for my 1976 Trans-Am.)

Replacement key fobs do not last forever – because nothing electronic/battery-powered does. Run one through the wash and see (no problem with a metal key; it just comes out shinier).

Electronic fobs also can cost hundreds of dollars each – and are only available at the dealership, because of the proprietary electronics.

Get ready to double

There is talk of doing away with the fobs now. Instead, an App on your smartphone will unlock the car and let you start the engine. It will be called a virtual key – because it’s physically nonexistent. Just code in your phone – and it’s already being marketed to rental fleets as a clutter and time-saver.

Ok, I’ll buy that. One less thing to carry. And instead of having to go to a desk at the airport to get your keys, the rental company sends you the code for the virtual key and you can just go pick up the car on the lot using your phone.

But how about cost?

What if you don’t have a smartphone?aurochs

There are still such aurochs. I am one of them. Because I only need to make calls occasionally and can do this from my home – for now – using a $12 (one time cost) corded wall phone. I do not “like” things on Facebook nor do I text or Tweet – at least, not via phone. I’m not opposed to these things, mind.  I just don’t feel the need – or have the time.

I wonder where other people find it.

Anyhow, the real reason I don’t have a smartphone is because of the cost of the thing. The phone itself plus the contract you have to sign. People routinely spend upwards of $1,000 a year on their phones.

This boggles me.gadget-obsessed

It is a function of the general bedazzlement – as I see it – over gadgets. Americans used to make fun of the Japanese for being gadget-addled. Americans have surpassed the Japanese – or at least are now as addled (my view).

So now – soon – you may have to have a smartphone just to operate a new car.

Will the App be free, at least?

That is one of the upsides.


If the OEs (that’s industry talk for the car companies and their suppliers) can be end-run by a free App that replaces the electronic  transmitter fob it could save car buyers potentially several hundred bucks by eliminating the need to buy a replacement key fob at the stealership.

But you’ll have to own a smartphone to use the “free” App – and while it’s true that most people already do, that doesn’t take away from the expense.

I wonder, also, about the security of having access to our cars via our phones. If you lose your phone, do you lose your car, too?

It’s a new avenue for remote control access to your car by someone other than you,

I have always been more-than-slightly skeeved out by GM’s OnStar (and similar) systems that can do things to your car from afar – such as shut off the engine, for example. The person doing the shutting off being someone other than yourself. A Smartphone App would amount to the same thing.

Whoever has the phone (and App) now has access to the car.

Will armed government workers – cops – have access to the App?

Metal keys can’t be hacked. Someone had to physically get hold of your keys before they could operate your car – and it was (and is) not possible to remotely turn off a car that has an old-school metal key and ignition switch.

It is important to always keep in mind the times.watching-you

The government (and corporations) no longer accept any limits on their intrusions into our lives. The insurance mafia, for example, is champing at the bit to monitor all our behind-the-wheel doings in real time – in order to charge us even more than what we’re already forced to pay them. The profit motive at gunpoint is a dangerous thing, but it’s now a routine thing. Obamacare being another example.

Washington’s quip about government being like fire – a dangerous servant and a fearful master – could be said just as equally about technology.

It has its good points, certainly. But given the times, it could also have some pretty awful ones, too. depends on you to keep the wheels turning!

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  1. You have helped me see things right. I hope I or someone else you can help you see what’s right about these ghastly predatory murderers you’ve inexplicably been conned into seeing as your fathers.

    Washington was a hired mercenary. He murdered hundreds or thousands of complete strangers for pay, or because he sadistically enjoyed such things. He was the worst sort of psychopath. What exactly is fatherly about killing fellow human beings for sport and personal gain. Where is the NAP in all of this.

    You are as deluded about these founders as the bible thumpers are about their mythical sky daddy.

    He was just a man who married widow Martha Custis at what is now the White House. She was by far the richest person in all of America at the time and had four children. He and Martha had no children together.

    He was a drunk skirt chasing slave fucking lout probably too fucked up most of the time to be a father or get it up with a woman not his property or defenseless against his strength or status.

    He is nobodies fucking father but rather a complete bloodsoaked motherfucker. His quotes are incomprehensible babble. What does that quote about a dangerous servant and fearful master even mean. Not a gotdam thing but rather some salty Humpty Dumpty spouting off before he falls of the wall drunk yet again for the thousandth time.

    Truly we have let ourselves be enstupidated and bamboozled by the very bottom of the barrel of shitbags who somehow we’ve come to adore and worship as founders. It is so beyond pathetic, I am truly at a loss as to how so many come to remember these destructive misanthropes who live off the stolen loot of so many cucks who happily surrender their lives and freedom to their ridiculous pyramid schemes.

    I hope you will do some first hand investigating of Washington some time and see what exactly it is you’re holding so fondly in your arms as a beloved family member. There’s no value he’s ever created but only plunder he has administered as villain of world class proportions.

    • Hi Tor,

      I grant most of that. But I disagree with you that Washington was an evil man. I think he was a flawed man, who had some unsavory attributes. I do as well. Don’t we all? But he had some good qualities – some human qualities. I have not found them in Hamilton – who was loathsome to the core.

      PS: Jefferson also had many not-so-great qualities (and did some not-so-great things). But I nonetheless admire him.

  2. Now the FMCSA(Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) in DC has claimed all powers relating to commercial hauling. Along with the NHTSA, trucking has become a controlled nightmare. I’m to the point I’d buy a truck if I could. I didn’t want to own one, being able to walk away from one I disliked, but with mandatory digital logging this next year(all new trucks are being made with it now and of course it doesn’t add a thing to the cost). Since I’m “grandfathered in” in Tx.(that’s a Class AM license instead of simply Class A CDL)I wouldn’t have to log(right this minute but give them a month or two)nor take DOT physicals.

    Why would Tx. create this special class? It’s easy to see. People my age can get around some restriction(initially)but with federal laws beginning to supersede everything else it can’t last I’m guessing. It was initially, only nobody will admit this, to get good truck drivers and pay them less. But now they don’t need old, reliable drivers who don’t get out of state and take less money since the biz is rolling downhill rapidly wage-wise. 30 years ago drivers made over 30 cents per mile or equivalent if per hour or percentage wages were transmuted……or for all intents, transmogrified are now making 40 cents and some 2-4 cents above that but it’s not the norm.

    Dashcams have morphed from dashcams to dashcam/cabcams(No way I’d do that, have a camera on me people could see in real time…..anytime and all the time.

    I still enjoy trucking but less and in the near future, probably much less.

    But owning something like an early 90’s Classic Peterbilt that has no electronics(unless you get one with a 60 Series Detroit Diesel, the first ever built from the ground up computer controlled engine)then you can slide under most digitalized entrapment. Too bad about the 60 Series too, it’s an excellent engine.

    so eric, it’s not just early 90’s cars and pickups but early 90’s everything that is the closest thing to not being under Big Brother’s thumb 24/7(don’t know why people bitch about that phrase when it’s perfectly accurate and understandable).

    • Hi Tor,

      Of all the founding fathers, Hamilton is the only one I consider to be without redeeming qualities. Brilliant, yes – but in a shysterish, Johnny Cochran way. Washington, on the other hand, wasn’t as bright but seemed more decent as a man. For example, he prevented Hamilton from murdering the “tax rebels.” I find nothing in the historical record to redeem Hamilton. He was despised by most of the other founders, even his fellow Federalists.

  3. I think the app you folks are looking for is the NHTSA one.

    “information sharing in “as close to real time as possible” in the case of cybersecurity events. The mechanism for this sharing is the Automotive Information Sharing and Analysis Center, which NHTSA encouraged car makers to create jointly, and which it will now encourage to expand membership to suppliers and others involved in cybersecurity maintenance and practice.”

  4. No smart phone here either but my three vehicles all have the push-to-start remote feature. Kind of feel like I’m in a Formula 1 track car when I start them up. Super convenient when entering. Wouldn’t want to go back to keys and scratched doors by keyholes and scratched steering columns.

    After 4 years have had zero problems or lost fobs.

    • Hi Liberty,

      The push-button/remote fob thing is, I will admit, handy. But – to me – it is another example of the morphing of cars from mechanical things to electronic things. The difference being the former was more easily/economically fixable and long-term durable while the latter is more like a cell phone of flat screen that works great for awhile …. and then you throw it away.

      Whether this is an improvement depends, I suppose, on your point of view!

      • Conundrum: Older vehicles are simpler and easier to fix but need constant “fixing”. Newer vehicles are complex and difficult to fix, but if purchased intelligently – Toyota, Lexus, some Infinities, etc., don’t need much fixing and offer superior performance than the old – even a Trans Am. 🙂

  5. My first car, a 1976 Chevy Chevelle, had the old fashioned GM system of two keys. One for the ignition and the other to unlock the doors and trunk. The thing with the ignition key, once the car was running you could take the key back out (you just turned the key collar to turn off the engine). It was handy if you had both keys on one ring (i imagine that was the case for most), and you wanted to open the trunk for example. You could do that without turning the car off or taking a key off the ring. Some times I would start the car and put the keys back in my pocket so I wouldn’t lock myself out.

  6. Eric,

    If a “professional” car thief wants your car, it is relatively easy for them to get it.

    The trend away from physical metal keys is not a good idea.

    I would rather put the money spent on fancy key systems instead towards a simple to use secondary cut system (not sure what to call it)–needs a chip or some other circuit for car to operate, one can remove (similar to car radio faces) from vehicle.

    My 1991 Camary had it. I could pull out the part that completed the circuit and the car would not start (even with the key). Most people would not see it, unless they knew where to look.

  7. Couple of thoughts on this. If the technology used either Bluetooth or NFC, both are protocols local between the device and the car, I’m less opposed. If the tech requires authorization through a server hosted somewhere in the cloud, I would have a very different, and negative opinion. Also, finger print readers are getting very good (which is also bad). That could be used for starting your car. We also have chips in our credit cards now. How about a CC reader in the car, and very inexpensive to replace if lost. I’m not advocating for any of these things, but there are so many ways that car companies could go.

    • Now the fingerprint thing is not something I thought of. I think that is a good way to go, because no one would be able to steal or interfere with your car without being next to it. Like memory seating, the car would be able to hold 2, 3, up to 10 drivers, or whatever. No way of losing anything or having anything stolen, just have your fingers.

      The fingerprint info will be stored on the device, like today’s smartphones. So the government would actually have to access the car to steal your print. If your car/phone is never connected to the internet, you’re good.

      Selling the car to a different set of people will become more of a pain though. It’ll probably have to be done though the manufacturer.

      • Brandonjin,

        So now the carjacker will have to cut off your hand.

        That should work out well, especially if your phone uses the same hand.

        Police today shot a man who was running down the street. Union spokesman said it was a good shoot because he refused to show both of his hands.

        Life just gets better and better.

  8. Do a youtube search for “bump key” and you’ll learn just how secure those metal keys are.

    But that said, how many times do we hear of security breaches on servers? Is the app on your phone going to talk directly to the car? (no) It will run though some server somewhere. Because it is easier (i.e. cheaper) to update a single server than it is to update 10 million phones. And your car has to have a network connection, which means another monthly fee too.

    My new vehicle comes with U Connect “free” for a year or two. I’ve tried out the app. Beyond the “gee whiz” factor it might be nice to be able to unlock my doors if I lock the keys in, but because the doors unlock automatically when the key fob is near it would be more like the punchline of the old joke about the Polish guy who locked his keys in the car and it took an hour for him to get his wife and kids out. And since it uses Sprint’s cellular network, it only works about 1/3 of the time outside of a city anyway. I would have much rather Chrysler spent their time supporting Apple CarPlay instead. I don’t need wifi in my vehicle, I have a data plan on my phone. I don’t need maps (although the nav is pretty good), I have Apple and Google maps. I don’t need Sirius, I have a phone with thousands of hours of programming that I choose.

    You can get an Android phone for almost no money these days. It isn’t a requirement to be on Facebook or Twitter, but if you do find yourself there, the reading room is where most people catch up on the news. 🙂

    • Just like sending a pic or any file from you phone to a computer, nothing needed but a BT connection. I’ve already had the key fuckup thing with Dodge pickups though. I’d go for a regular key. There are countless places you could run the ignition wire and only you would know where the off/on button is. A car thief doesn’t normally have time to search the bottom of the seat, the entire backside of the dash or any number of good places to hide switches. I always had my brake light and running light switches hidden and nobody could have found them without being a contortionist with a good light. Another good place is to use a battery cut-off switch. Not many people would think to raise the hood to locate a non-functioning switchkey. It’s a good way to save a battery long term too since it would kill power to everything that’s on when you’re not in the car.

      Besides that, it’s not as easy as a movie to hotwire a car….hate to break everyone’s bubble.

    • I amend this comment. It’s possible to get a 2″ android phone for which you never need sign up for any cell provider, for $50 on Amazon. It has a camera and bluetooth, and assuming that Internet access is only needed for installing the app, basically lets you use anything it would fit into be the basis of your key.

      That’s a huge improvement over having to pay $1000+ to replace a lost key.

  9. “What if you don’t have a smartphone? There are still such aurochs. I am one of them.”

    Me too! Only one in my family and friends (even grandma has an iPad).

    I would concede that it’s a good thing if I thought it was, but honestly it’s gotten so out of hand and ridiculous at this point that it’s not funny anymore. Use your god damn hands for something else people, learn how to live a little. Generation retard flounders while the rest of the world kicks our ass in every available metric.

    Just got a pair of keys cut and fuel pump (manual) replaced on my doomsday Honda. $20. Beat that “smart” phone users!

    • I still have an old fashioned flip phone, no landline anymore, and no interest in ever getting a smartphone. Not about to put my car on some “cloud” or other network. I’m sick and tired of government and corporate amerika having access to everything I do or buy, everywhere I go, etc. Enough. I’ll keep the car I have till the day I die.


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