The key to it all
They don’t just feel good and look good, they also have what it takes: car keys from
This story has teeth. That would almost have to be the case, if we’re talking about keys. Or would it?
It also has great symbolic value: think of the honor of being awarded the key to a city. But we are talking about
Sascha Kissner’s official title alone indicates that keys are more than just door openers. He is the director of development for electric/electronic car-body security systems. A 911 key lies on his desk, and you can see that it shows a silhouette, not just of the series, but of a cabriolet.
That’s why the engineers also engage in intensive dialogue with the designers when they develop a new generation of keys. After three or four years, the result is presentable on both the outside and the inside. Just like with the “big”
The circuits on the flexible circuit board play a decisive role in what today’s keys can do. The keys are true miniature marvels. That is clear from the pop-science adage that “you used to put the key in the car, today you put the car in the key.” The machined piece of metal from the early days of sports cars has become a high-tech security module. Just the fact that you can open the roof of the cabrio or unlock the luggage compartment and doors from afar shows the smooth communications between the data storage unit in the key and the control systems in the car. The key also activates the memory functions for the seat positions.
“It can be trained,” says Kissner, meaning that it is a transmitter and receiver at the same time. Transmitted by radio waves, its signals are coded by cutting-edge encryption processes.
The car itself is started by a turning motion, in typical
The key has to be user-friendly, which is already evident in its tactile qualities. The buttons on the surface are designed in such a way that they have to be pressed deeply to activate a function—which prevents you from opening the car by mistake when the key is in your pocket. Stability is very important as well. An extensive series of trials puts robustness and watertightness to the test, for example, by subjecting the keys to hours in a washing machine with a load of rocks.
There’s yet another area where not the slightest compromise will be tolerated. Every
They are not aware of a “successful assault” on a
If you lose your key, the replacement team at the
Despite the advances in digital technology that offer new possibilities in the field of car keys, Kissner and his colleagues still consider the key as such to be indispensable. Technically, of course, it would be possible to perform the same functions with a cell phone. But even if the associated security concerns could be overcome, a major problem would still remain. “Most people get a new phone every two years, or even more often,” says Kissner, “but a key is supposed to last for the lifetime of the car.”
That being said, the engineers are a little proud of the fact that a replica of their key shell has recently appeared in the Far East—in the form of a cell phone. But you can really only use it to make phone calls, not to start up a
By Elmar Brümmer
Photos by Bettina Keidel