June 26, 2022

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Push-button ignition was a luxurious way to start your car even when it wasn't

Push-button ignition was a luxurious way to start your car even when it wasn’t

The first time I started the car with the push of a button, it felt easy and comfortable — as if I had somehow stumbled into a tax bracket that I don’t belong to. “You’re telling me,” I thought, “I can just leave my keys in my pocket, and the car will let me in and drive?”

Push-button start is one of those buttons that doesn’t really do it Add Any new job on the thing being replaced (in this case, the ignition system that lets you insert a key and turn it on). It’s only there for convenience, a job it excels at. You get in the car, press down on the brake pedal and button, and you’re ready to drive. It’s hardly more difficult than unlocking your phone.

It’s also, for most of us, anyway, the most powerful energy we can generate with just our fingertips. Flipping a switch on the surge protector can give you close to 2000 watts. That’s no small amount, but pressing a button to start the car gives you the power to move yourself, your family, your luggage, and oh yeah, a thousands-pound machine at highway speeds.

Close to instant access to over 100 HP.
Photo: Amelia Holowaty Krales/The Verge

The physical buttons themselves are relatively standard across the auto industry, which is surprising if we consider How can ordinary old keys be different. Each one I saw was round, located somewhere to the right of the steering wheel, and had lights to indicate that your car was running. There are some safety measures in place – many cars protect against accidental launch by requiring simultaneous depressurization of the brake pedal. On a personal level, it feels like the right combination of comfort and manual operation – the coordination of the foot and the hand makes you feel like you a job Something, but you don’t have the annoyance of tampering with the key.

When I started writing this, I had the impression that the pushbutton start was a relatively recent feature, but its origins go back over a century. It was one of the first cars with button-based ignition 1912 Cadillac Model 30for which you had to press a button to activate the electric starter Engine crank replacement. Of course, these were very early days for “cars”, so the comfort factor has diminished somewhat due to A few more steps (Such as Adjust engine fuel/air ratio and spark timing) you had to do. However, it is fair to describe the Model 30 as having a push-button start. It was also keyless, not because it was communicating wirelessly with a fob The way modern cars work (clearly), but because… there was no key at all.

But at some point, people realized there was likely to be a way to stop someone from starting your car. There was a period when cars had keys to open the ignition switch, but you didn’t start the car with the key. By the fiftiesDespite this, many cars came equipped with the full ignition system most of us are familiar with today, replacing the system of buttons and levers. And that’s how it mostly stayed put for so long until someone decided it was time to put the button back in and all the conveniences that come with a keyless.

Mercedes Benz usually get credit To popularize the feature with the KeylessGo system in the 1998 S-Class (the company asked if it considered itself the inventor of the modern startup push system but heard no response). While this car comes with a fairly standard key that you can turn to start the car, you can choose it to include a keyless system that wouldn’t be out of place in a modern car. As long as you have a special plastic card, you can walk to the car, ride and run through Push a button at the top of the transmission.

For a while, paying to start was a luxury feature. That class S. I started Priced at $72,515, which is about $130,000 in today’s money. If you remember quite a few songs in the 2000s like 2 chainsAnd the Ray SarmordAnd the Gucci maneAnd the Lil BabyAnd the with Khalifa That included words showing off cars that don’t have keys or that start with a button, for that reason. (Khalifa points to his play button in two songs).

Push-to-start car keys usually don’t have a metal blade, which makes them more pocket friendly than conventional keys.
Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

While the feature isn’t unusual here in 2022, it’s not yet ubiquitous; Looking at the 2022 models of the 10 best-selling cars in the US, only half of them come with this feature as standard. If you buy a lower model Toyota RAV4, Camry, Tacoma, Honda CR-V, or Ford F-150, you’ll get a conventional key fob to start it. (Excluding the base F-150’s press-to-start isn’t necessarily a surprise since the truck doesn’t even come with cruise control—yes, I’m serious.) However, by the time I’ve moved up two or three trims, all vehicles give up the ignition cylinder for one button.

When I started my first car with the push of a button in 2020, I found it very confusing for the first few months (probably because I was only driving decades-old cars at that point). I would hold the button for a split second before the brakes, to make annoying beeping sounds from my car and a message “To start, press brake”. I’ve grown to love it, though, and now it feels so outdated that I have to take the key out of my pocket and twist it in the ignition whenever I’m driving another car. However, I’ll admit that for a month or two, I definitely tried to get out of the car (2016 Ford Fusion Energi) without turning it completely off, causing it to scream at me again.

This poses a problem, though: As with many amenities, button-starting has a cost. Several dozen people She was killed by carbon monoxide poisoning Or uncontrolled moving vehicles after they’ve left their cars running, assuming they’ll turn off after they leave with a key pull. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration even has a page Warning people to be more aware if their car has a keyless ignition system. These deaths show that when a machine becomes easy enough to use without thinking, people won’t even think about it — and car manufacturers haven’t thought about the deadly repercussions of it. In 2021, many senators Suggestion laws that would impose features to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning and distractions, but so far, The Actions It is not passed.

Many manufacturers have begun to devise systems to prevent further deaths. But the days of pressing to start a button It may already be numberedThanks to companies working to push comfort even further. Many luxury electric cars – most notably Teslas – are forgoing the manual start process entirely. You enter, choose your driving mode, and the car is ready to take you away.

Hilariously, Volvo’s website shows a blank where the XC40’s recharge button would be, but there is no physical button.
Photo: Volvo

While a lot of electric cars from traditional automakers such as Ford, Hyundai and Toyota are push-button start, there are indications that the buttonless start could already be underway; Recharge the Volvo XC40 It automatically turns itself on And the turning offAnd while the Volkswagen ID 4 has an on/off button, its use is entirely optional according to the vehicle’s manual. It’s almost the same technology; The cars authenticate you via a fob, card, or even your smartphone, but they only activate or deactivate the motors when you use the gear selector, rather than making it a separate step.

Like I said before, I’m a little annoyed with the celebration, so I think it would be a shame if the pressure to start was completely replaced. Fortunately, if this is the future, it may take a long time to arrive, given how slowly the buttons have spread since their re-emergence. Until then, the button will continue to function as a luxury, giving those lucky enough to have something less to fill up on as they ride in on their morning commute.

Correction on May 31 at 7:02 PM ET: The original version of this article incorrectly referred to carbon monoxide as carbon dioxide. Its actual chemical formula is carbon dioxide and we’re sorry for the error.

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