Button ignition was a luxurious way to start a car, even if it wasn’t

When I first started the car at the touch of a button, it was easy and convenient – like I somehow got into a tax group I don’t belong to. “You’re telling me,” I thought, “can I keep the keys in my pocket and the car will let me in and drive?”

Button start is one of those buttons that really can’t do it Add Any new work on the things being exchanged (in this case an ignition system that allows you to insert the key and turn it on). It’s there just for comfort, a job in which it excels. You get in the car, you depress the brake pedal and the button and you can go. It’s no harder than unlocking your phone.

For most of us, it is also the most powerful energy we can produce with just our fingertips. By switching the switch on the overvoltage protection, you get an output of almost 2000 watts. That’s not enough, but pressing the start button gives you the power to move yourself, your family, your luggage and, oh yeah, a thousand-pound machine at highway speeds.

Almost instant access to more than 100 HP.
Photo: Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Physical buttons themselves are relatively standard in the automotive industry, which is surprising given how different old keys can be. Each one I saw was round, located somewhere to the right of the steering wheel, and had lights that indicated your car was driving. Some safety measures are in place – many cars protect themselves from accidental starting by requiring simultaneous depressurization of the brake pedal. On a personal level, it looks like the right combination of comfort and manual control – thanks to the coordination of the foot and arm, you feel like work Something, but you’re tired of manipulating the key.

When I started writing this, I had the impression that button launching was a relatively recent feature, but its origins go back more than a century. It was one of the first button-operated cars of the 1912 Cadillac Model 30 to push a button to activate the electric crank. Of course, these were very early times for “cars”, so the comfort factor was somewhat reduced due to several other steps (such as adjusting the fuel / air ratio of the engine and spark timing) that you had to do. However, it is fair to describe the Model 30 as having a start button. It was also keyless, not because it communicated wirelessly with the controller. The way modern cars work (clearly), but because … there was no key at all.

But at some point, people realized that there was probably a way to stop someone from starting your car. There was a time when cars had keys to open the ignition, but you didn’t start the car with the key. In the 1950s Although many cars were equipped with the standard ignition system that most of us know today, replacing the button and lever system. And so it usually stayed in place until someone decided it was time to return the button and all the equipment that came with a keyless key.

Mercedes Benz usually receives recognition for popularizing this feature with the 1998 S-ClasslessGo system (the company asked if it considered itself the inventor of the modern starter system, but heard no answer). Although this car comes with a fairly standard key that you can use to start the car by turning it, you can choose it to include a keyless system that would not be in place in a modern car. As long as you have a special plastic card, you can walk, ride and run to the car. Press the button at the top of the transmission.

For a while, paying for a start was a luxury feature. That class S. I started The price is $ 72,515, which is about $ 130,000 in today’s money. If you remember a few songs from the 21st century as 2 chainsAnd the Ray SarmordAnd the Gucci maneAnd the Lil BabyAnd the with Khalifa, then it included lyrics showing cars that don’t have keys or that start with a button, for that reason. (Khalifa points to his play button two songs).

Push-to-start car keys usually do not have a metal blade, making them more pocket friendly than regular keys.
Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Although this function is not uncommon here in 2022, it is not yet ubiquitous; When we look at the 2022 10 best-selling cars in the US, only half of them have this feature as standard. If you buy a lower model Toyota RAV4, Camry, Tacoma, Honda CR-V or Ford F-150, you will get a conventional keychain for starting. (Leaving aside the button to launch the basic F-150, it’s not necessarily a surprise, because the truck doesn’t even have cruise control – yes, I mean it.) However, before I moved two or three trimmers, all vehicles give up the ignition cylinder at the same button. .

When I started my first car at the touch of a button in 2020, I found it very confusing for the first few months (probably because I was only driving decades at the time). Before braking, I would hold down the button for a split second to hear an annoying beep from my car and the message “Depress the brake to start”. I fell in love with it, but now it seems so old-fashioned that I have to take the key out of my pocket and turn it on whenever I drive in another car. However, I admit that for a month or two I definitely tried to get out of the car (Ford Fusion Energi 2016) without turning it off so that it would scream at me again.

However, this is a problem: As with many other devices, buttoning has a cost. Dozens of people were killed by carbon monoxide poisoning or uncontrolled vehicles after leaving cars in motion, provided they shut down when the key was pressed. The National Road Safety Authority even has a Warning page to make people more aware of whether their car has a keyless ignition. These deaths show that when a machine becomes easy to use without thinking, people won’t even think about it – and car manufacturers haven’t thought about the deadly consequences. In 2021, many senators proposed laws that would introduce features to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning and distract attention, but The Actions It has not yet passed.

Many manufacturers have begun to devise systems to prevent further deaths. But the days when the button was triggered can already be summed up Thanks to companies that are trying to move comfort even further. Many luxury electric cars – especially Tesla – completely abandon the process of manual starting. You enter, choose your driving mode and the car is ready to take you.

It’s funny that the Volvo website shows an empty space where the XC40’s charging button would be, but no physical button.
Photo: Volvo

While many electric cars from traditional automakers such as Ford, Hyundai and Toyota start with a push button, there are indications that a push buttonless start could already take place; Recharge Volvo XC40 Switches on and off automatically And while the Volkswagen ID 4 has an on / off button, its use is completely optional according to the vehicle manual. It’s almost the same technology; Cars will verify you with a pendant, card or even your smartphone, but only activate or deactivate the engines when using the gear selector, instead of taking a separate step.

As I said, the celebration annoys me a bit, so I think it would be a shame if the pressure to start changed completely. Fortunately, if it’s the future, it can take a long time for them to arrive, given how slowly the buttons have expanded since they reappear. Until then, the button will continue to function as a luxury, giving those lucky ones that they will have a little less to refuel when they arrive for the morning commute.

Correction May 31 at 7:02 PM ET: The original version of this article incorrectly referred to carbon monoxide as carbon dioxide. Its true chemical formula is carbon dioxide and we apologize for the mistake.

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