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Once upon a time, your car boasted a lock and a key and both were required in order to open your vehicle and drive away. Now, our car keys are probably cleverer than we are and can not only open our car remotely, they can nag us about how much petrol we’ve got left and remind us we’ve left one of the children in the back seat. Adrian Flux Insurance Services looks at eight clever car key innovations.

You could soon be using your mobile phone to unlock your car when virtual car keys hit the market. The “keys” will wirelessly swap data with your chosen vehicle to allow you to enter with a simple swipe.

Pay attention for the science bit: the virtual mobile phone car key hinges on a forge-proof data packet stored in encrypted format on the SIM card. Losing your car keys in the future will no longer be an issue: losing your mobile phone, on the other hand, may soon become 100 times more annoying.

The General Motors gear-tech team has developed a car key that not only opens and locks its cars, it can also be used remotely to check tyre pressure, fuel levels and even reprogramme the car’s radio. Presumably, with some tweaking, it could also trigger a whole host of James Bond-style weaponry, too (one can dream).

If you share your car with drivers who aren’t precisely the same height and weight as you – and not many of us can boast a family of identical robots – technology now allows us keys with driver memory. By pushing a pre-programmed button, your car’s seats, mirrors and stereo instantly adjust to your personal preferences. Handy if your teenager is obsessed with screamo death metal.

Sensible Volvo has developed a key that not only controls its vehicles, but also takes a car’s heartbeat. Specifically, the heartbeat in question belongs to the human or humans inside the car and means a driver can detect a lurking intruder or be reminded that they’ve left a child in the backseat. Two very depressing scenarios that one hopes never to detect, with or without a clever car key.

Toyota’s new breed of car keys are so clever that they refuse to accept you’ve locked your keys in the boot. Drop the clever key in the boot and then slam it and the key will detect the problem and automatically open the boot. Regardless of where the key is in your vehicle, the car will start with the press of a button.

keysMercedes-Benz realises that carrying a huge number of shopping bags packed with designer purchases can be a real bind if you’ve got to stop and hunt for your key before ramming them all in the boot. Its new car keys are detected from afar meaning that all you need to do is touch the door handle and you’re in.

Back in 2004, Saab announced it was developing a new car key that immobilized the driver’s car if they were over the drink-drive limit. The key analysed a sample of the driver’s breath and prevented the car from being started if there was too much alcohol present. Luckily for many drivers, a key that detected halitosis and prevented drivers from making their way to first dates, is yet to go into production.

BMW is working on a car key that not only opens your car, but also your hotel room – it also ‘speaks’ to car park ticket machines, allows you to make ‘micropayments’ at the shop and buy train tickets. “Our vision is that, in future, the key will not only mean access to the car but, inside and outside the car, will become as it were the ‘key’ to many functions,” said Thomas Kratz of the BMW Group. Blimey.

* Whether your car key was commissioned by 007’s Q or is the old-fashioned variety that requires a lock, cover and replace the loss of all your keys for just £19.50 when you take out an insurance policy with Adrian Flux. All the keys attached to your fob will be covered should you lose them, and cover includes the recovery of keys locked inside a vehicle or premises and the cover of replacement keys. For more details, contact Adrian Flux on 0800 3698590 or visit www.adrianflux.co.uk.

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