How a Keyless Car Lock Works

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Development of Keyless Systems

  • Keyless car locks are designed to unlock a car from a distance with the use of some kind of remote device. They are an advanced version of power locks, or car locks that depend on electric signals and electromagnetic fields to operate the physical locking mechanism. Keyless car locks were originally designed for both convenience and safety, but first manufacturers had to overcome several barriers, notably to safety. It was easy enough to design a remote that sent a signal to the door to tell it to unlock or lock (or flash the lights or beep as well, to add visual and auditory cues), but what was to stop someone else from creating their own remote device that could send signals to the same car?

    The easy solution was to include a code in the remote that the car lock would have to recognize before obeying any type of incoming signal. Unfortunately, the same problem applied to this solution, since with a little work a dedicated thief could develop a system of hacking the code, rendering the locks useless again. To create a keyless lock that safely protected the car, technicians implemented what is known as a 40-bit rolling code.

Modern Keyless Systems

  • The 40-bit rolling code uses a remote device to send a radio signal to the car's lock, but includes a 40-bit code at the beginning of the signal. The car's lock is attuned to this particular code and waits for it. When it receives the code, it automatically follows what the rest of the signal encodes, a command to lock or unlock or perform some other type of action. When the signal is finished transmitting, a random code generator in the locking device automatically changes the necessary code to a completely different set of data. The remote device is equipped with a code generator that is precisely synchronized to come up with the same code as the lock's generator, so that when the next signal is sent, the lock will again respond to it. This cycle can go on for trillions of cycles before ever repeating a code. This is why one remote locking device can be set to work with one car and no other.

Other Types of Keyless Systems

  • While some remote systems use buttons, not all keyless lock systems do so. Those within the car simply send signals to other control modules to have them perform specific tasks. Some remote devices are designed to automatically activate when within a certain distance to the car locks, so that no buttons need to be pressed. There are also locks that are keyed into specific codes that need to be input on the car door itself--or systems that use fingerprint identity before sending the proper signals.

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