Sunday, August 26, 2007

Unintended consequences

biometric car key
I'm all for innovation. Sometimes it has unintended consequences though.

A man in Malaysia, so the story goes, was carjacked - or rather his Mercedes Benz was. The car was fitted with a biometric security systems.

The thieves cut off the owner's finger and made off into the night.

Maybe apocryphal (according to Biometric Technology Issues - who knows. Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.

I suppose using your finger as security code is a different sort of digital.

laguna key cardI recently borrowed a friend's late model Renault Laguna while my trusty hybrid Volvo was in the panel shop. The Renault has a strange card key. You slot the card into a reader then push the start button. It also works as the remote locking control.

So far so good.

The snag comes if you lose the card/key. I'm told a replacement costs $500.00 (that's an old advertising trick - if you want to emphasise how expensive something is then include the decimal points. Of course the opposite is also true).

I was vigilant about the key. I am notorious for losing keys. Then I had an aha! moment. I would put the card on my key ring - using the convenient hole at the top.

Can you see the problem with that? When you try to insert the key into the slot the ring - well, …you can't.

Silly really. Renault are one of the car companies that made an early commitment to design.

If memory serves me they were the only major car manufacturer to have the head of design on their board of directors.

I quite like their vehicles - the current Megane convertible is very smart and I like the glasshouse effect of their mechanical foldaway roof. Not everybody likes the little Gallic flourishes - like the boat tail - but I do.



So, anyway, I spend my time with the Laguna in an odd state of paranoia.

I needn't have worried.

But I should have paid more attention to the loud, continuous, beep after I had removed said key one rainy night. When I return in the morning the immobiliser failed to make the cheery chirp.

Dead flat battery.

Once the Automobile Association has restarted the car none of the things controlled by the computer worked and had to be reset. I

had to go back to the dealer to get the code to make the radio work.

Whatever happened to the days of a key that unlocked and started your car?

Interesting article about Renault design.


"J.D. Power and Associates survey that says carmakers that polarize opinion make juicier margins on the cars they sell. The study found that cars that people either love or hate -- such as the Chrysler PT Cruiser and Infiniti FX -- "sell quicker and at a higher profit margin" than cars that get lukewarm reactions."

Fast Company

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