Believe it or not, when the first cars were manufactured, they did not have keys. Such cars could only be turned on through comprehensive maneuvers, and only specific individuals understood such a process. At the turn of the 20th century in 1910, manufacturers came up with the first car key that car owners could only use to lock the ignition. Still, in this case, the driver had to crank up the engine to start the car. From there, it took several years before manufacturers came up with other versions of keys. Read on to see inside the evolution of car keys over the years.

Evolution of Car Keys

Edge cut keys

The idea of producing car keys started with traditional metal ones. In 1949, Chrysler became one of the first car manufacturing companies to introduce mechanical keys that could turn the ignition on. The mechanical keys on that period had one edge. Later in 1965, Ford invented double-sided keys that were more secure than single-sided keys. Although these keys have cuts on both edges that provided more security than their predecessor, people could still duplicate them.

Sidewinder keys

In the 1970s, manufacturers decided to enhance the security of their cars. In this case, car manufacturers introduced sidewinder keys to enhance the security of mechanical keys. Although these keys were still mechanical, one of the best aspects of them is that they had unique winding cuts on both surfaces of the key blade. These keys had smooth or rough edges, but their carving made them unique and challenging for one to replicate. The sidewinder keys had a specialized kind of cutter that engraved the cut specification on a key blade. Since that time,  sidewinder car keys have continued to gain popularity in the modern car market.

Remote keys

The next evolution of car keys enabled car owners to start their cars without using a physical key. Such technology came with other additional functions that included unlocking and locking the car trunk and doors remotely. The remote car key design comes with varying levels of security, shapes, frequencies, and sizes.

General Motors introduced one of the first remote car keys known as VATS (Vehicle Anti-Theft System) in the mid-1980s. The 1986 Chevrolet Corvette added a coded resister to its VAT key. Such a technique provided more security that protected cars from brute force attacks on their lock system.

Transponder keys

During the late 1990s, manufacturers made transponder keys that involved a combination of side-winder keys with a small RFID emulation circuit or RFID chip. One of the advantages of these car keys is that they could hinder brutal force attacks on a car locking system. When a car senses a transponder key enter the ignition, the key and ignition lock cylinder will communicate through radio frequencies. This technique enables the car computer to determine if the key attempting to turn on the car is authorized.

Since their inception, these types of keys have continued to evolve to be increasingly secure and popular. In case you have managed to drive a car manufactured in the late 1990s or early 2000s, you might use a transponder key. On the contrary, if you lose your transponder key, you can find it challenging to replace it. In this case, there are several chips, security levels, technologies in transponder-equipped cars, and intensive training is needed to create a new copy.

Production of modern-day smart keys

Currently, most cars have a combination of mechanical, transponder, and remote keys into a single unit known as a remote. In this case, the remote is used to open the trunk and lock or unlock doors, while a transponder is used to start a car.

The production of smart keys started in In 1990 when Jaguar used a key known as Tibbe in its models before the key become extinct by the end of 2013. Lexus LS 400 which was introduced in the 1990s became the earliest model to use Laser cut keys that came with additional security making duplication difficult.

In the 1990s, Mercedes Benz came up with a switchblade key that flipped off a remote locking key fob. Current Volkswagen vehicles still use this kind of key. In 1993, Chevrolet introduced a proximity keyless entry system for starting a car. Currently, this key can manage to detect a nearby fob to unlock or lock a car. To start a car, you have to insert a fob into a slot on a dashboard and push a button. Such technology eliminated the need to turn on the ignition and reduced the number of mechanical parts. In general, such a system provided better convenience and security.

In 2003, Mercedes came up with a fully functional proximity key that resembled a credit card, and after a few months, Lexus introduced a version of a smart card. Later in 2004, Chevrolet launched remote start-up keys.

Modern Smart Car Keys

In 2016 BMW introduced the best modern display keys where it included an LCD touch screen. Through this technology, you can unlock your vehicle while you are 100 miles away. The 7-series of BMW produced in 2016 do have a key that can open the trunk and set climate control. You can recharge this key using a USB cable. Later in 2018, Tesla introduced a smartphone app that uses Bluetooth key technology and uses a credit card key system if the battery of your smartphone runs out.

What to Expect in the Future

An average consumer might not realize the evolution of car keys, but in the market, you can get a variety of car keys. When it comes to the security of your car, you should understand the differences between different kinds of keys and what led manufacturers to produce them. Currently, criminals are continuing to search for ways to outsmart the latest smart key system. On the contrary, manufacturers are still looking for ways of developing advanced auto-lock systems that would be harder to compromise or replicate. Therefore, we expect more advanced key technologies in the future.

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