walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

Phones and Car Fobs revisited: the Universal Car Remote exists


I went looking for "universal car remote" because I said to myself, Self, if Apple could conceivably make a phone do this, than someone should already be doing this in a stand alone device. How come I haven't seen it? Then again, I didn't know that semi-universal, small garage door openers (with multiple buttons for multiple doors) existed until I went looking for them. So I went looking and I found.

In my favor, this thing apparently showed up at SEMA in November, and I was a little busy there for a few months (WDW, T-weekend, holiday shopping, traveled to Seattle, then February trip to WDW), so I don't feel too bad about failing to notice its existence. But still, super cool! Next question: can you put two different cars on a single remote? Because there have to be other people who sometimes drive their SO's car, and would like to not have two fobs in their pocket, or remember where they stashed the other one when not in use.

Update 1: I'm screwed already, because they don't support Honda or BMW at all. Or Subaru. Basically, I'd have to go back in my personal car history to the early 1990s (Mazda -- I was driving a used 626, maybe model year 1984?) to find a make on the list. Toyota is supported, so R. would only have to go back to the Camry he had when we got married. I got a lot of friends driving Mazdas and Toyotas, tho, so you might want to take a look at this.


If you have a VW, don't get excited -- the only models listed are 1998 and 1999 Jettas.

Update 2: My husband suggested that maybe you could unlock/lock or start/stop the car from the service port to the car's computer. I was skeptical -- if that was possible, everyone would be hotwiring cars. That sounded way too easy.


You can buy cheap and getting cheaper things to plug into the OBD (on board diagnostic) port and then report to a phone app what they are finding. What you do next is ... unclear. But it looks like a read only situation, at least for these dongle-app combos.


Update 3:


Looks like iKeyless went to a lot of bother to reduce chip count and size, which suggests that shoving this thing into a phone will eventually be viable, if not already. I had been a little worried about just how many remotes might be out there, and how variable they were in terms of logic. They have been _extremely_ variable, which is going to be an issue.

Update 4: the 16 pin OBD (technically, OBD II) port that people are attaching dongles to and looking at the results with apps was originally intended to be a way to monitor emissions, that manufacturers then piggy-backed some infotainment systems onto. (Insert Go Design Your Own Damned Port engineering screed here.) I don't think there is any control anything here. At. All. Also, Wow this is some Old.

Update 5:

But you _can_ use the OBD to reprogram the key fob, thus giving you full access to running the vehicle in the ordinary, unlocked and with fob fashion.


"The reason this form of theft is currently so rife - and admittedly this issue is not limited to BMWs - is that European competition rules require diagnostic and security reprogramming devices to be available to non-franchised garages. As we understand it, this effectively means that car companies cannot restrict access to or use of OBD ports."

Really puts a different perspective on that Massachusetts ballot thing that I voted yes on. Ooops?

Update 6:

I got distracted by theft and similar, and then wound up here somehow:


"5) No programmable button on the key FOB to initiate battery and cabin preconditioning. The European i3s have this feature, but for some reason it was left off the US i3s. You can still initiate cabin and battery preconditioning via the smartphone app, but having it on the key FOB is easier. Some people (you know who you are!) have told me it was a deal breaker and wouldn't buy an i3 without it."

This is interesting! That means some people really _like_ their fob, and care a lot about it. I don't. If I'm next to the car, I'll touch the car, leave the fob in the pocket. If I'm not next to the car, I'd rather the app took care of it. I want the fob _gone_. I hate fobs. I hate metal keys. But there are other people out there, and if a bunch of them are very attached to interacting with their car via the fob, then switching to to the app is going to be much trickier, leading to a very long transition/long hybrid period.
Tags: our future economy today

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