Could a new General Motors technology put the carmaker’s OnStar division out of business?
A new “smart” key that will be introduced with the 2011 Buick LaCrosse is designed, among other things, to prevent accidental lock-outs, an unfortunately common occurrence and one of the most common reasons why owners of GM vehicles call OnStar, which can remotely unlock car doors for subscribers.
Automakers have come a long way from the days when a car key was little more than a ground sheet metal blank. The new GM technology, which uses a small, built-in wireless transmitter, is one of a growing number of systems that build special features into the key.
Many automakers now build in digitally coded resistors or other systems that ensure that the key being used to open a vehicle’s door or start the engine isn’t just an illegal copy.
Ford last year went a step further, introducing its MyKey system. The technology allows a parent, for example, to let a teenage child drive the family car – but ensure good driving behavior by setting a limit to the vehicle’s top speed or holding down the audio system’s volume.
There’s no reason a version of the MyKey system couldn’t also be used to limit the behavior of an older driver on a restricted license.
The new GM key, which will debut on the ’11 Buick LaCrosse and other General Motors models, serves a different purpose.