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Driving cars with no keys.

Some of the models of luxury and sports cars capable of starting their engines without analog keys.
Some of the models of luxury and sports cars capable of starting their engines without analog keys.
photo courtesy of autoexoticrental.com

These days, locked cars open because you walk up to them and touch the door handle. Engines start because you push a button. As long as you've got the car's computer chip keychain in your pocket, AKA the Fob, you're good to go. These are the cars of tomorrow today. The keys that start them use no pins and tumblers.

The keyless igntion system of the newer Rolls Royce models allow the car to start in proximity to the Fob.
David Haydon

Auto Exotic Rental, which allowed me to photograph some of their keyless ignition models, said that using a Fob to unlock and start a car was a step up from analog keys. It's more convenient, more elegant and simpler.

Incidentally, the Rolls Royce pictured has an MSRP of $470,295. Auto Exotic vends it for a mere $899 . . . per day, that is.

Their Maserati has a crystal for a Fob. Their Bentley requires the sleek metal rectangle to be placed in the center of the dash. Purring and whirring come from the engine of the Ferrari as soon as the little red button marked "ENGINE START" is pressed.

Many of Auto Exotic's cars use electronic key fobs, which activate the remote keyless entry systems on their vehicles. Early though the early Fobs still required a metal key, used infrared and required a clear line-of-sight, many of the new models use challenge-response authentication.

A diagnostic tool is needed to initially program the devices. Though many of the vehicles can self-program their Fobs as long as there is an already-working key.

The shift to when every car uses keyless ignition will come when drivers get over the learning curve. Some drivers tend to forget to press a button to shut off the car after they park. Others have trouble letting someone borrow their car when keyless Fobs are still so foreign to the average driver. And for the driver who loses their keychain, it's a lot more work to replace it.

Stephen Fry claimed on his "best human inventions" BBC program that the lighter was the #1 gadget in the world. Flame at your fingertips. A car that starts when you touch is a close runner up.