Car keys are popular objects for millions of motorists around the world, but they might soon be disappeared. After replacing cash and credit cards, navigators and calculators, wristwatches and cameras, it looks like smartphones will phase car keys out and pave the way for digital Key Management Systems.

In a recent article, the Italian newspaper La Repubblica tells the history of car locking, which is quite a fascinating one. To be accurate, car keys were not the first tools used to turn on the vehicle: at the very beginning, a crank needed be inserted on the front of the car, requiring a fair amount of human force to start the engine.

The French car manufacturer Peugeot made cranks become common practice in the 1930s, when it registered its vehicle naming system featuring three digits with a central zero (Peugeot 201, 202, etc.): the first digit stood for the car’s size, the final one for vehicle generation, and the central zero was exactly meant to allow the introduction of the crank.

Car keys as we mean them today appeared in the 1920s, while in the 1960s vehicles started to have two separate keys, one to open and close the doors, one to turn on the engine. Multifunction car keys arrived mid 1990s, when some upper- and middle-range models first provided a single object for vehicle locking, unlocking and starter.

The following step was the integrated remote control for central locking, which was completed by headlights flashing to ease car search in large parking facilities. Then, at the beginning of the 2000s, remote controls began to be used to activate some ignition buttons, thus replacing the locks.

Can you imagine the next evolution of this history? In the Internet of Things age, car and its components are more and more controlled and actioned from remote, and mobile devices such as smartphones might very well become the simplest and more convenient interface for locking and unlocking the vehicle, activating and disabling the alarm, starting the engine, and even managing some features such as heating or onboard entertainment.

 

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