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Key fob foibles

Rick DeMeis
11/15/2010 05:53 PM EST

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old account Frank Eory
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re: Key fob foibles
old account Frank Eory   11/16/2010 3:35:12 PM
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I agree, the people who write firmware for these simple key fobs could learn a lesson from the cell phone guys about locking & disabling button functions. We've all experienced the "pocket call" or "purse call" with our cell phones -- a minor annoyance in most cases. But the consequences can be much more severe with accidental activation of a car's key fob functions. In addition to your example of the windows being down all night, a much more obvious one comes to mind -- accidental remote starting of the car, which could lead to theft, overheating, or at least a substantial waste of gasoline.

djs2571
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re: Key fob foibles
djs2571   11/16/2010 4:46:42 PM
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It would be easy for a remote to have an enable button, or some other lockout feature - though i'm thinking that would confuse the typical driver resulting in many "my remote doesn't work" complaints. One solution is to keep those supermarket 'club' cards next to the remote, so when it's in your pocket the buttons are covered. This greatly reduces the opportunity for an accidental button press. Hey, just make a tiny hard case for the remote - I can see it next to the impulse items now.

Dook000
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Dook000   11/17/2010 9:41:02 AM
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On my old Citroen, the key fob was an infra-red link. You had to point it at the car. Once it was in your pocket or bag, the sensor couldn't see the fob and there was no possibility of a false activation. Amazing how technology has improved!

Tim W
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re: Key fob foibles
Tim W   11/17/2010 2:01:26 PM
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My 2000 Cherokee's remote is suitably rugged, having survived a few trips through the washing machine, but I've accidentally unlocked it a few times too. False panic alarms are not an issue - the remote's been "fixed" with my x-acto. Now, how about a multi-car, multi-brand remote?

anon9303122
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re: Key fob foibles
anon9303122   11/17/2010 3:01:54 PM
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Yup, me too. After the second inadvertant triggering of that useless panic alarm, I popped open the key fob for my Suburban and cut track. Blood curdling screams are much better than some stupid beeping of a horn and flashing of lights. NOBODY pays any attention to them because of the little boy who cried wolf.

mtripoli
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re: Key fob foibles
mtripoli   11/17/2010 3:20:41 PM
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If I had been given this design task I would include a capacitance sensor placed such that it can only be activated when the fob is being held in it's "in use" position. Even if you put your hand in your pocket (or purse) and activate the sensor you still have to press a button. I've used these sensors all over the place where the user is not aware that it is being activated. These sensors are available as individual IC or in some cases can be rolled right into the code of the microcontroller.

jpmcwil
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re: Key fob foibles
jpmcwil   11/17/2010 4:12:12 PM
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Maybe I'm the only one who feels this way, but what about ditching these fobs altogether? If you've got a couple cars that have them, and anything more than a few keys, your keychain starts getting pretty unruly for putting in a hip pocket anymore. If you're dying for remote control of your car, you probably have a smart phone, and it seems like if you want a bunch of advanced remote control features, operation through a linked smart phone is a much sexier way to go anyway, and entirely possible these days. I guess I'm just old and stodgy, but I can find my own car when I park at the airport, and I don't need a remote control to open or lock my doors- my key works fine and it's as quick as anything else. My remote key fob has sat unused, in a bowl of change on my dresser, for years. One thing I DO like is the numeric keypad on the driver's door. This is the best feature Ford has, and possibly enough for me to keep buying Fords as long as they have this. With this keypad, I can unlock one or all the doors, open my tailgate glass, and with one simultaneous press of two buttons, lock all the doors at once after I've exited the vehicle. How much more do you really need? This feature lets me lock the keys in the car on purpose when going places (boat, beach, etc.) where it makes more sense not to bring keys along, which you can't do with a fob and big wad of keys. Forget the fob, it's an anchor! Who's with me?

mr_bandit
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re: Key fob foibles
mr_bandit   11/17/2010 5:25:37 PM
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We have a car where, if the engine is running and the door is locked, if you are outside with the fob it will not unlock the door. So ... the key is locked in the car and the fob to unlock the car to let you get t the key - will not work. Designed by monkeys, indeed.

zeeglen
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re: Key fob foibles
zeeglen   11/17/2010 5:36:33 PM
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Too many mindless monkeys. Sounds like you discovered this failure mode the hard way. Have you reported this to the manufacturer and asked for a fix? Which car is this?

mr_bandit
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re: Key fob foibles
mr_bandit   11/19/2010 1:22:31 AM
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the car is a chevy silverado truck. Actually, my mother owns it and the doors will auto-lock under certain conditions, including engine running but standing still - not sure if that is the way it is designed, but I have seen it do so. No - we just make sure there are multiple keys. I hate the fobs anyway - I just use the key, like another poster. I do like power windows, because I only have a right hand (I lost the other one somewhere - I checked lost and found, no luck), so the power window is safer than sticking the arm thru the steering wheel.

Test Engineer(retired)
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Test Engineer(retired)   11/18/2010 1:36:20 AM
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After having similar issues for 4 months, one day I found my car robbed of a GPS, accelerometer and a Maglite. I hung up the fob. Life is better.

zeeglen
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re: Key fob foibles
zeeglen   11/18/2010 3:18:26 AM
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Recent robbery rumors just in time for the holiday season are those who steal the security code by monitoring the signal as a nearby motorist presses the remote lock button on the key fob. The advice now is to lock the doors from the inside door panel button (no RF signal is transmitted), and use the mechanical key (not the fob button) for entry upon return to the vehicle.

fixtureguy
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re: Key fob foibles
fixtureguy   11/18/2010 3:11:31 PM
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My vehicle’s locking methodology employs a slender, rectangular, metallic object with notches cut along the edge which line up with matching pins inside the door lock. You have to actually insert this into the lock, thus avoiding most of the problems listed. To operate the window, I simply turn a crank-like device conveniently located near the window. A combination of tactile and visual feedback allow me to position the window just as I like it, and I’ve never had a phantom roll-down. Elegant simplicity, I say. Car designers, take note.

AndyKunzHH
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AndyKunzHH   11/18/2010 3:52:14 PM
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I prefer to use a key all the time. It keeps me from locking myself out, and there's no RF for some thief to monitor. It's also much smaller and lighter in my pocket. Some technology is better left in my dresser drawer. Andy

parity
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re: Key fob foibles
parity   11/19/2010 5:07:29 PM
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How would they solve the problem? Microsoft - make the fob bigger and bloated, but it will still be prone to leaving windows open Apple - Attach their latest iPhone antenna to the fob, but it may not always work when held in the hand Intel - Sell off the fob business or merge into a JV Banks - Charge car owners a fee each time they inadvertently push a fob button Republicans - Make all car owners responsible for fixing their own fobs Democrats - Remind the public that the fobs were made during the Republican administration Vatican - Release a statement that while some of their fobs misbehaved, the offending fobs would be forgiven and assigned to new vehicles Michael Jackson - will see what he can do with the eight year old fobs The engineer with pocket protector and safety pin holding his glasses together - just wrap some foil around it

f6godfire
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f6godfire   11/19/2010 6:22:18 PM
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Parity LMAO Very funny post!

Duane Benson
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re: Key fob foibles
Duane Benson   11/20/2010 8:34:02 PM
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Coleman. Whenever I light my Coleman camp stove, I use a long necked camp-lighter - the first one I ever has was a Coleman brand too. But that's not the point. Those camp lighters have a trigger-operated electronic igniter which makes them susceptible to a similar problem. I'm sure no one would be particularly happy with a lighter accidentally being triggered some place so they just put a second button on the thing. You have to hold down the second button in order for the igniter trigger to work. Simple and effective. Put an extra button on the key fob that must be pressed in order for any of the other buttons to work and the problem pretty much goes away.

sharps_eng
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re: Key fob foibles
sharps_eng   11/20/2010 11:09:41 PM
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A conductive elasticated fabric pouch popped over the key-ring does it, like Parity's foil. Girls, clip the pouch inside your purse, you can find the keys easier too. Find these on Ebay (as soon as I've worked out how to get Monel wire into my Mom's knitting machine!)

t.alex
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re: Key fob foibles
t.alex   11/22/2010 2:52:00 AM
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Just like a phone lock, we need some simple key combination.

Neil.Rosenberg
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re: Key fob foibles
Neil.Rosenberg   11/24/2010 12:47:41 PM
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Wow - this hit a nerve. While I have had these problems for years I have another complaint along these lines and it has bothered me forever. I had a full size same year Pontiac and my wife an Oldsmobile with the same keyfobs. The Stering Col was both made by Saginaw the left had the headlights on one car and the other had it on the right. My keyfob was the same size and shape by TRW and both had four buttons on the same unit the unlock was on the left for one car and on the right for the other. THe trunk was on the left on one and the right on the other. It drove me nuts. Can someone tell me for what reason in the world why this is or was done. I can't think of any execept to keep some engineers job. Maybe in some small way this is why Pontiac and Olds are both gone. I have owned 40 GM vehicles and have recently go away, something I should have done 20 cars ago. Loyalty does not pay.

WKetel
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re: Key fob foibles
WKetel   11/25/2010 1:16:17 AM
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The key fob on my Grand Caravan also includes the anti-theft key identifier, so I must use that key, and not a simple plain copy. The very worst thing that they did, A REALLY STUPID choice, is that there is no key option for the passenger side doors. Only the drivers door has a key to open it. There is the very poor option of opening the rear gate and climbing up to the front, but that is a pain. Worse yet, to unlock the passenger side door with the remote, the only option available is to unlock everything, which allows a street punk to quickly open a door on the opposite side and steal a laptop computer. HOW STUPID CAN A CHIEF ENGINEER GET! Save a bit on a car and assure that people will never purchase another vehicle without a passenger side key lock installed. Those who made that cost-cutting decision are not nearly smart enough to get the monkey badge. What does work very well is the "putting the keyring in my pocket door unlock" function. How about requiring pressure on two buttons with a ridge between them in oder to activate a function? Fairly cheap, and quite easy. The "enable" button could be in series with the battery connection, not needing additional logic.

john_#3
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re: Key fob foibles
john_#3   11/25/2010 5:01:04 AM
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I had this problem with the (rather huge) paging-remote fob for my truck. I liked the 2-way capabilities - I never had to wonder whether I'd locked the truck, or whether that alarm I heard going off in the distance was mine; the fob knew. But it was subject to accidental button press. After one too many, I opened it up and shaved most of the fronts off of the silicone buttons, recessing them. I never had another accidental activation, and they were still easy enough to press intentionally.

W1PK
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W1PK   11/26/2010 7:59:06 PM
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jpmcwil, no you're not the only one who feels that way. I was able to buy my new pickup truck without power door locks or power windows. I was not able to buy it without power steering, power brakes, cruise control, or an automatic transmission. This seriously worries me. One of the first things I did during the test drive was get it up to 15 mph and turn off the ignition switch, to make sure I could still steer and brake it if one of those powered systems ran away on me and I had to shut down the engine to kill the hydraulics and regain control. Detroit needs instruction in the KISS principle, not to mention fail-safe design and graceful degradation.

moondoggie
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moondoggie   11/29/2010 3:20:42 PM
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Not only can an accidental remote-start happen, but it has happened to me on a Jeep. Luckily, only a few minutes later I found the car running. The good thing is that the doors are automatically locked when a remote start is in progress.

WKetel
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WKetel   12/2/2010 7:41:49 PM
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How about making remote start illegal? At least in my part of Michigan it is a large source of air pollution, as a car sitting warming up is getting ZERO miles per gallon = 100% pollution. Next, how about the option of no power steering or power brakes? I know that power brakes are required to enable traction control and ABS, and undoubtedly they will be needed for the stability control fiasco that will be soon required for everybody. Haven't the safety people discovered that many of us drive much better than a 16-year-old? The other problem with the current design of remote fobs is that accidental pocket keying can certainly shorten the battery life, even if it does not leave your lift-gate open to the world while you are shopping. The very least that the car makers could do for us is to add a "remote off" switch someplace in the car.

anon9303122
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re: Key fob foibles
anon9303122   12/15/2010 1:39:28 PM
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In my part of Maryland, there are houses getting zero miles per gallon. Just sitting there, 100% pollution. We should make furnaces illegal.

Don J
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Don J   1/5/2011 4:30:47 PM
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Just a few comments: Regarding the capacitive sensor... I hope you're not telling me (as a customer) that I have to remove my gloves in the Michigan winters in order to operate my keyfob. If you are, I will never buy one of your cars again!! Likewise with the double button press or activate switch. I find it hard enough to press the buttons with gloves on as it is, much less to press 2 buttons at the same time or activate a slide switch etc. I'm very confident (having worked on remote keyless systems for over 10 years) that most of the above suggestions would result in far greater complaints from customers annoyed by these "features" than the complaints of inadvertent activation. My gut feel is that some fobs are poorly designed and are more prone to inadvertent activation than others. The clearance from the carbon pad to the circuit traces, the stiffness of the rubber, the profile of the surrounding plastic all contribnute. I suspect that good design of the mechanics of the fob would go a long way toward preventing this problem. (john_#3's comments support this.) As far as remote start overheating goes, all of the remote start systems I have been involved with have a timeout in the range of 5-10 minutes thus making it very unlikely that the vehicle would overheat (or burn excessive amounts of fossil fuels.) As far as someone "listening in" on the RF signals from the fob to the vehicle, all "modern" (10-15 yrs old or less) remote keyless entry systems use a rolling code system which makes it virtually impossible for a thief to replay your signal and unlock your car. There is a theoretical "crack" of the Microchip Keeloq system, but practical useage would be very difficult. The "stories" of thieves replaying an RF message come from very old systems with poor security (much like the old garage door openers that used a simple RF frequency or a "fixed code" system.)

AhmadNasser
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re: Key fob foibles
AhmadNasser   1/5/2011 7:07:20 PM
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it's time we have the vital electronics in our life implanted in our body. Technology is getting too cumbersome, and we need a true biological integration.

Don J
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Don J   2/10/2011 2:25:08 PM
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jpmcwil, Ask and you shall receive! http://spectrum.ieee.org/green-tech/advanced-cars/smarter-cars-theres-an-app-for-that/0

fanl
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re: Key fob foibles
fanl   9/19/2011 6:28:12 AM
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My experience as a very exigent user tells me that system manufactures should keep it as simple as possible. In instance, a Nissan Sentra has nothing but close and open doors command at the key fob, it has no windows remote control, so that, if the driver closes the car, and it gets open in the future, the car will simply gets itself closed again in a few minutes if no door has been opened. Simple as that. There are automotive systems that doesn't bring easiness to the user, those shouldn't be installed.

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