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The evolution of vehicle access

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Vehicle access has undergone a remarkable revolution over the last few decades. Thanks to design engineers harnessing popular technologies from various applications, the automotive industry has moved from mechanical keys to fobs equipped with unlocking buttons – and this evolution signifies a significant leap in enhancing convenience for car owners. 

The evolution of vehicle access 

The history of vehicle access begins with traditional key-based systems that have been used by personal and commercial transport for decades.  

By comparison to today, keys are relatively rudimentary – relying on dedicated patterns within the barrel of a lock and shape of the key. Although effective the majority of the time, manual keys do have drawbacks in terms of security. Locks can be picked, and keys can be duplicated.  

This ushered in the development of the key fob. To grant access, this still requires a manual input to trigger radio wave emissions – however, the improved security compared to lock and barrel saw it become a staple in vehicle access technology. 

Vehicles are valuable commodities and, as such, theft is of genuine concern. Therefore, extra protection has been included in vehicles since October 1998 in the form of immobilisers. 

These systems employ electromagnets and coils to read resistance, adding an extra layer of security by preventing ignition without the correct key or fob, however these are increasingly becoming less and less relevant with ‘ignition’ not necessary in electric vehicles.  

The advent of keyless entry marks a significant leap forward, automating the process of locking and unlocking vehicles. Key fobs replaced physical keys, offering convenience and paving the way for further innovations in vehicle access and security. 

Keyless entry has swiftly migrated from fobs to smartphones, with these devices being able to carry a greater variety of controls and protocols. 

Despite the chances of vehicles being hacked relatively remote, keyless entry systems have the potential to face issues. Signal interception, for instance, is a relatively cheap and low-tech method to gain entry to vehicles – amplifying the radio waves from the fob to increase the distance they travel and unlocking the unsuspecting victim’s vehicle.  

What does the future hold for vehicle access? 

FutureMotiv looks to encompass every possibility when designing access systems in a vehicle, and even develop protocols for the low-likelihood scenarios. Our goal is to provide a vehicle that is as secure as possible – no matter the who the final user may be.  

A contemporary alternative that provides access and security for commercial and fleet vehicles is the introduction of Near Field Communication (NFC) cards.   

These cards bring a new level of security, deploying dynamic codes and communication ‘handshakes’ that thwart cloning attempts. The integration of a dedicated server on behalf of the fleet owner further enhances security, storing virtual keys on a dedicated and secure platform that can be regularly updated.  

In the commercial vehicle sector, these access systems play a crucial role. Fleet managers leverage online applications to monitor and manage a fleet of vehicles efficiently. The integration of secure access systems ensures that commercial vehicles remain under centralised control, minimising risks and enhancing operational efficiency. 

Biometrics, including facial recognition and voice recognition, will be the next frontier of vehicle access. The technology is already deployed in handheld devices such as tablets and smartphones, and the cross to vehicles will happen in the near future.   

Modern cars are already leveraging cameras to improve the driving experience, therefore coding for facial recognition into an existing device – or fitting one with this specific purpose – is almost inevitable. Despite the remote possibility, each current or previous access method does have the potential to be overwritten – biometric access, however, presents a much more robust challenge for would-be thieves.  

The history of vehicle access systems showcases a remarkable evolution from mechanical keys to advanced and secure technologies. The industry’s commitment to enhancing security, coupled with the integration of cutting-edge technologies, ensures that the future of vehicle access will be defined by convenience, efficiency, and, above all, robust security measures.  

The information for this article has been taken from the content provided through our regular Lunch & Learn sessions, hosted in partnership with our parent company RLE International at our Warwickshire HQ.