A Deadly Convenience: The Dangers of the Keyless Car

What price would you pay for automotive convenience? To be able to enter and start your car without the manual use of a key? Just having the key fob in your pocket or purse as you approached your vehicle would be enough. Is there a price you would be willing to pay to have that feature in your next car, truck or minivan? Would you be willing to die for it?

Seems that there is a growing problem with respect to vehicles that have keyless entry/keyless or push-button start. People are being overcome with carbon monoxide after driving their vehicles home into their attached garages, and quite simply, forgetting to turn them off. Hybrid vehicles are especially prone to this danger due to the fact that when operating in electric mode, the vehicle makes very little noise and it would be easy to assume that it was off. Unfortunately, at some point once the battery runs down, the gasoline engine kicks in – causing a build-up of colorless, odorless carbon monoxide gas.

But that isn’t the only danger. Commonsense would suggest that the vehicle wouldn’t move or run without the key being detected IN THE CAR. This is not true. While the vehicle DOES require the key in order to be started initially, they key can be removed from inside the car and the car can be driven away. In some documented cases, up to 250 miles away. This would most likely pose a risk during the winter or otherwise poor weather conditions – you run inside a store or your home with the engine running, thinking that it can’t be stolen. That assumption would be incorrect. It seems that automotive engineers have determined the chance of the vehicle being stolen as a result is less of a risk that the vehicle stopping suddenly in a variety of regular everyday situations where the key may be removed from the vehicle by accident and may cause harm or additional danger to others as a result.

Not to have you panic, but there is still more. This particular risk requires a combination of things to occur but could still result in the theft of your vehicle from your driveway without your knowledge. This has to do with your habits and opportunity. It is called a “relay attack” and it works something like this: you leave your keys (and key fob) on a tray or hanger near the garage or the door to the driveway – usually within 25 feet or so. A thief with the right equipment can detect the presence of the key and use specific frequency amplification to determine and boost the signal from your key fob – tricking your vehicle into believing that the key is actually IN THE CAR when it is not. They can walk up to your vehicle and drive it away – no broken glass, no hot wiring, no damage to the physical car itself.

So, what to do? A few simple things – get into the habit of pressing the engine start button so it reads off before you get out of the car (some vehicles emit a series of beeps or horn sounds, but not all); keep your car keys away from the garage or driveway (some experts even suggest a faraday cage like your microwave or freezer); and finally, always turn your car off and take your keys with you when leaving the car – even if its for a few minutes. As they always say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Ken Chester, Jr. is President & CEO of Motor News Media Corporation – an automotive news service founded in 1989 as The AutoBuyer Plus Corporation. Featured on numerous television and radio programs, viewers, listeners and readers alike relate to Ken's friendly manner and wealth of information about the many vehicles currently for sale in today's complex automotive marketplace.

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