How smart is your car key? If you drive a modern vehicle it may well be smarter than you think and, as a number of owners are currently finding, the keys are actually proving to be far smarter than their owners.
I thought a smart key was just the motor industry’s way of setting motorists up for an expensive fall should they be careless enough to lose one of the new breed of intelligent keys. Lose a Mercedes smart key for instance and it could cost you up to £300 to replace it – which does just seem a little ludicrous – but when you consider what a key can now do it is cheap at half the price (well almost).
For example, did you know that a smart key has a memory chip inside it which wirelessly updates itself when the ignition is turned off to record, amongst other things, the distance travelled on the last journey as well as the total mileage that the vehicle has covered? No, I didn’t either.
This bit of treacherous telemetry was obviously devised to try and help prevent members of the motor trade being duped by owners ‘clocking’ their vehicles – the key will always know the mileage covered, even if the car’s odometer doesn’t.
But now Smart keys are even being used to solve ‘crimes’ – crimes usually involving the vehicle’s hapless owner. The Sunday Times recently published a catalogue of case studies where owners had sensationally failed to outsmart their car keys.
The highlights were : a man fromHartlepoolwho claimed that his Mini had been stolen. Upon subsequently surrendering the keys to his insurer these were interrogated by a Mini dealer who was able to establish that the car had in fact been driven by the owner 1500 miles since it was reported stolen! He received a suspended sentence and community service but above all, he will always carry the shame of not being as clever as a car key.
Another man who failed to outwit his key, was found guilty of crashing his car under the influence of alcohol when police were able to establish that his car, which he alleged had been stolen, was last driven using the key which was still in his possession.
All of you armchair criminals out there, thinking ‘Well surely the easy solution here then is to simply ‘lose’ or ‘destroy’ the key’ have obviously never tried to make an insurance claim for theft without having the keys to the car. Just for the record, insurers are incredibly reluctant to pay out on a car theft where the owner cannot provide the keys, as they will argue that you were negligent in allowing the key or keys to be lost.
So what is the future for smart keys? Basic engine management and diagnostic information can already be retained on the key – so if you are ever tempted to think of having your car ‘stolen’ after a failed MOT, at the prospect of major repairs or a major service bill – the key could once again be the smoking gun in your pocket!
Just imagine the joy that these keys could have brought to Peter Falk’s 70’s detective, Columbo. He would have undoubtedly had the majority of his crimes wrapped up before the first ad break had the smart key been about in his day. Thank goodness it wasn’t.