Get ready for fingerprint access to cars, as automakers look to ditch the key fob.
Say goodbye to Faraday cages for keys, say hello to banks shutting down your car if you miss a payment.
Silicon Valley is about to solve another problem you didn’t know you had. You’re familiar with the radio-frequency key fob that, apparently, everyone is trying to hack? Wrapping it in tin foil every day, like you have been doing (right?), is about to become a thing of the past when automakers roll out fingerprint identification, retina scans and facial recognition. That’s right: Getting inside your vehicle is about to become even easier than pushing a tiny button on your key fob. (Who has time for that in their busy schedule?)
In all seriousness, fingerprint identification for cars is indeed coming, but not because companies that make fingerprint scanners want to make more money. Instead, automakers and insurance companies are spooked enough by car thieves replicating and amplifying key fob signals that they are planning to introduce fingerprint access to cars about two years from now.
The car theft trend driving this move by the automotive industry involves devices increasingly used by thieves that record and playback signals sent by key fobs to lock and unlock cars. These devices are said to be easy to obtain, and once a thief has recorded the signal, unlocking and starting the car is very easy. (Essentially, keyless start systems have created this problem — in newer cars, there isn’t an actual ignition key to begin with).
In defense of automakers, who could have predicted that electronic signals could be hacked once they replaced metal keys?
Synaptics, a company that’s been at the forefront of touchscreen technology in cars, is keen on rolling out fingerprint access for cars.
“Synaptics fingerprint-based automotive solutions can be used for either driver or passenger identification and authentication by seamlessly integrating the sensor into various vehicle controls, such as in the steering wheel, start button or infotainment screen,” Synaptics says. “Fingerprint sensors can also act as navigation devices to control menus on a heads-up display or instrument cluster.”
The company touts benefits like geofencing and time-based access to cars when it comes to biometric access.
Not only will it enable vehicles to identify authorized owners and tailor their stored seat position and music preferences, it will also enable parental control modes that will be able to restrict a car’s performance envelope or the times of day that a particular user can drive the car. Stay out late past your curfew? Better call an Uber.
Another upside of fingerprint access (not for you, of course, but for banks) will be the ability to remotely shut down access to a car if you miss a car payment. Who doesn’t want that?
Valet parking? We’re sure it’s (eventually) going to be very hassle-free to register valet drivers as authorized users for a car when you just want to go to a restaurant or stay in a hotel that has off-site parking. Hopefully this will be easier than just giving the valet the key.
In short, there is no limit to the kinds of problems that fingerprint access for cars is going to solve. But the key fob itself isn’t going away — it’ll just be paired with biometric access.