AAA: Smart Keys Can Mean Dumb Mistakes for Drivers


Fostering forehead-slapping situations like forgetting to shut off the car before exiting or not knowing how to kill the engine in an emergency, the convenience of the "smart key" has brought with it new opportunities for motorists to feel stupid. According to AAA, which in 2012 assisted more than 4 million people who had locked themselves out of their cars, such incidents have not decreased much despite the increased use of smart keys and transponder fobs in recent years.

A smart key allows a motorist to enter and start a vehicle key-free and in some cases access stored driver profiles. However, the potential also exists for annoying and even dangerous foul-ups like remote-starting a vehicle parked in an enclosed space where engine exhaust gasses containing poisonous carbon monoxide can be trapped. Moreover, lost or damaged smart keys or fobs can cost anywhere from $100 to several hundred dollars to replace.

"Traditional car keys will likely become obsolete and be replaced by technologies offering even greater security and convenience," said John Nielsen, AAA director of automotive engineering and repair. "Motorists will need to adapt with the technology to avoid the hassle and expense of smart-key replacements."

AAA offers the following tips to avoid the pitfalls associated with smart keys:

  • Familiarize yourself with the keys' capabilities and know what to do in an emergency.
  • Become comfortable with smart-key features in a safe environment.
  • To avoid keyless-entry or smart-key failure, replace the battery every two years or when recommended by the manufacturer or in-car battery warning system.
  • Don't expose fobs or smart keys to harsh elements, especially water.
  • Get a spare key and store it in a safe location for emergency use only.

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By Matt Schmitz | March 12, 2013 | Comments (4)
Tags: Advice, Safety



A couple of additional thoughts on SmartKeys -
1 - A driver can start the car, then leave with the key. it's now possible for someone to switch cars with another driver, and leave with the key. This eventually strands the other driver, possibly wildly inconveniently.
2 - Need a replacement key? Check your credit score because the price for a new key is out of reach for many. Better take good care of that FOB!

A neat idea, but some things are not that well thought out yet. Hopefully in a few years they will figure these things out. Maybe the key needs to be present to start moving the vehicle from parked?


Using a picture of the Caliber with a normal key cylinder on the column really presents the story the way that the author intended...


You cannot drive off with a smart key and leave a car running. All smart key equipped cars have a proximity sensor. If the key goes outside the zone, generally 10 feet, the car engine turns off.


GB, you are wrong at least when it comes to new Acuras. I don't know about other makes.

I actually tested this on a test drive with a salesman. I asked him what would happen and he said the same thing you just did. I said, Ok, I'll drop you off down the road with the key and we'll see what happens. If I'm right you can walk back to the dealership. He got kind of nervous but said he was "pretty sure". When he got out of the car and walked away with the key there was a bunch of beeping both inside and outside the car and on the dash a bright msg flashed something like "Key has left the vehicle". It was very obvious that something wasn't right but I drove off and drove for about a half mile and turned around and picked him back up. So, yes you can drive off if somebody leaves the vehicle with the key or walk away leave the engine running. At least on Acuras you can.

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