At What Point Do We Want Our Cars to Be Less Like Our Phones?

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
at what point do we want our cars to be em less em like our phones

That’s one of the unspoken questions contained in Automotive News‘ report on automotive supplier Continental’s new biometric authentication technology. Passwords are the scourge of the modern age, it’s true, and having a secure way of locking and unlocking a sensitive…anything…is preferable to trying to remember that damn combination of letters and numbers.

Computer files. Your phone. The entrance to sterile, high-security office buildings. These are all good candidates for facial recognition technology, fingerprint and retina scans, or voice recognition. But your car? It’s true that using this technology — in addition to conventional keys and fobs — would add an extra layer of defence, improving your vehicle’s chances of remaining unmolested. But at what cost?

Much like Elon Musk’s brilliant idea to “conveniently” centralize all minor vehicle functions in a central infotainment interface (which compelled owners to take their eyes off the road to dick around with menus just to roll down windows and adjust dash vents), technology doesn’t always make our lives easier.

Adding extra steps rarely makes things easier. It also adds an extra layer of uncertainty, as a door with two locks now has an extra lock that could break.

But Continental really wants to market its technology to the auto industry, going as far as engaging execs and journos at this week’s CAR Management Briefing Seminars in Traverse City, Michigan. The company’s tech would allow vehicle owners to unlock and start their car with any combination of voice command, face, or fingerprint recognition. It’s not a new concept, of course. Ford, for example, just patented a system for voice-activated seats. And it’s a logical path to go from, say, a keypad to a thumb scanner.

In a vehicle outfitted with facial recognition, for example, a camera located in the side-view mirror would scan the owner’s face before allowing them to unlock the door. Inside, an infrared camera would peer through the darkness for facial match before allowing the ignition to do its stuff.

If you’re the type who constantly worries about your car turning up missing from its parking spot (or your teen getting their hands on your keys), this might be just the ticket. Who are we to say there shouldn’t be choice in all things?

Besides just stealing keys and fobs, crafty thieves have been known to “steal” a fob’s unlocking signal to pilfer cars. So, with two out of the three biometric security measures, stealing the key or fob (or signal) would prove worthless. The third measure would require the thief to remove at least one of your fingers before making off with the car.

Not all thieves are willing to go that far in pursuit of a vehicle. Still, there’s many scenarios where we could see such a security system falling victim to weather, software gremlins, etc, rendering the car — and your fob — useless, at least until you’ve gone through other channels to gain access. Where and when that might happen could prove inconvenient — even dangerous.

Depending on your view of the modern world, your take might be more or less cynical than this author’s.

[Image: © 2016 Murilee Martin / TTAC]

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  • Turf3 Turf3 on Aug 06, 2018

    Just to reiterate: As far as I am concerned, all other entry and starting methods for automobiles are INFERIOR to a mechanical key. Ideally it would not even have a chip embedded in it, just a purely mechanical lock. Use some of the money saved from these unreliable gadget doohickeys, to upgrade the lock from the el cheapo disc tumbler locks to a proper pin tumbler lock, and then leave me the heck alone.

  • PandaBear PandaBear on Aug 06, 2018

    I don't mind it as long as I don't have to pay for it.

  • 3SpeedAutomatic Drove a rental Cherokee for several days at the beginning of this year. Since the inventory of rental cars is still low, this was a 2020 model with 48k miles and V6. Ran fine, no gremlins, graphics display was easy to work, plenty of power, & very comfortable. Someone must of disarmed the lane assistance feature for the steering wheel never shook (YES!!!!!!!!). However, this woman's voice kept nagging me about the speed limit (what's new!?!?!?!).I was impressed enough to consider this a prime candidate to replace my 11 yr old Ford Escape. Might get a good deal with the close out of the model. Time will tell. 🚗🚗🚗
  • Bullnuke One wonders if this poor woman entered the US through Roxham Road...
  • Johnds Years ago I pulled over a vehicle from either Manitoba or Ontario in North Dakota for speeding. The license plates and drivers license did not come up on my dispatchers computer. The only option was to call their government. Being that it was 2 am, that wasn’t possible so they were given a warning.
  • BEPLA My own theory/question on the Mark VI:Had Lincoln used the longer sedan wheelbase on the coupe - by leaning the windshield back and pushing the dashboard & steering wheel rearward a bit - not built a sedan - and engineered the car for frameless side windows (those framed windows are clunky, look cheap, and add too many vertical lines in comparison to the previous Marks) - Would the VI have remained an attractive, aspirational object of desire?
  • VoGhost Another ICEbox? Pass. Where are you going to fill your oil addiction when all the gas stations disappear for lack of demand? I want a pickup that I can actually use for a few decades.