Tesla has shifted the auto industry to ditch the key

Image: TopGear

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It appears there’s finally a tech area where legacy automakers can keep up with Tesla – keyless car entry and ignition.

They’ve been trying various versions out for a number of years already, but now that Tesla has upped the game by creating a computer on wheels, the tech is getting a near-universal addition on all new cars. According to an Edmunds report cited by CBS, 91% of vehicle models produced for 2019 have keyless ignitions as either standard or optional, a feature that Tesla was first to offer. This is up from 72% offered in 2014. Of vehicles purchased, nearly 70% included keyless tech in 2019, more than doubling the 31% from 2014. Clearly, consumers are being won over.

I remember some early security criticism when keyless entry was making the rounds, both the over-the-top kind and some with accompanying evidence. Personally, my old Jeep fob used to be able to unlock other cars sometimes in large parking lots, so security issues rang true to me, too. I also remembered stories about people hacking other people’s computers and phones simply by grabbing their WiFi or Bluetooth signals. If they could access my banking that easily, my car should be no match. Scary!

I swear there was a keyless car tech Luddite Award waiting somewhere with my name on it.

Tesla one-upped all that with the Model 3 – now you can start your car with your phone and soon drive it as well. The amped-up security seems to make it near impossible to hack into, but I’ve seen videos on how people can potentially clone signals when Tesla owners are at Superchargers. Quite difficult, but not totally impossible. Then again, the car is still a computer with a gazillion ways to be tracked. I’ve seen those stories, too, and it seems there’s a reason the number of successfully stolen Tesla cars hovers in the single digits.

All that said, Tesla seems to have Luddite concerns all wrapped up with their vehicles, but what about legacy auto? Fortunately for them, not every capable computer programmer in the world works at Tesla already. In fact, many of them already work for automakers. It seems every manufacturer already has software development centers and divisions dedicated exclusively to their vehicle tech, and they’ve been recruiting from Silicon Valley for years.

Their battery and self-driving tech might be woefully behind Tesla for a while yet, but apps that electronically tell their car to do things it already knows how to do manually? They should have that in the bag soon. Lincoln is about to introduce keyless ignition next year, so it’s quite likely the rest of the gang will follow suit since they’re already halfway there with keyless entry and app-based auto start functions to pre-warm cars.

It’s a small step, but an important one. Perhaps by following Tesla’s lead in computerizing (app-ifying?) nearly everything in their vehicles, they’ll understand a bit better what makes Tesla so unique. They’ll understand why Tesla’s tech is so appealing. They’ll understand why consumers are embracing what Tesla has to offer.

I mean, we probably won’t all embrace the tech quite on the level that Amie DD has and literally make keyless ignition a physical part of our bodies, but we will probably embrace it to the extent that we have let our phones run most of our lives.

Tesla has shifted the auto industry to ditch the key
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