Friday, December 19, 2008

Rental car blues...

This blogger recently went on vacation. Arriving at HNL late in the evening after a long day of traveling he made his way to the Hertz lot to pick up a rental vehicle. Juggling paperwork, carry on bag, and checked luggage he checked in, then made his way through the drizzle to the Nissan Murano. Put the bags in the back and hopped in.

Whoa. Turns out that the car has an On/Off button on the dash (see below).

OK, pushed the button, to get a light on the dash - a picture of a key. and the warning "No Key" Hmm, this vehicle doesn't have a key, what does it expect? (Note: this blogger hadn't noticed that the Hertz agent had given him a fob without any attached keys, see picture at bottom). Aargh - tired, damp, and very annoyed this blogger was reduced to pulling out the manual to read up how to turn on the car!

OK, turns out that you have to insert the fob into a receptacle on the dash (hadn't noticed that in the dark...), and put a foot and push down on the brake pedal while pressing the On button to start the engine! So, all's well that ends well...

A couple of observations: First, this blogger wasn't particularly happy with Hertz, and that for a number of reasons. For example, the person at the counter gave this blogger a form with a car outline on it and said to visually check the car for scratches, dings, etc., and to mark them on the card and turn it in before leaving the lot. Very unhelpful, given that it was dark and drizzling outside and the Hertz lot has practically no lighting! It would also have been nice if the counter person had said something about the "key" situation - this isn't standard on many cars, and this blogger had never been in one with this arrangement. Nothing like making your (tired, bedraggled, and wet) customer feel stupid for having to read a manual to find out how to start the rental car!!

Second, this blogger was wondering re this keyless implementation. There don't seem to be any benefits that this blogger could discern. The owner/driver still has to carry around, have on his/her person, and insert the fob to use the vehicle; there is no biometric or code implementation of any kind with the fob, so anyone with the fob (e.g. someone who finds it if it gets lost, or someone who steals it...) can use it to start the car; and the fob isn't any more ergonomic or utilitarian (e.g. smaller, lighter, etc.) than a regular car key. There appear to be no or few additional security or other benefits of this system as implemented. The only possible positive that this blogger sees is that perhaps a thief would not be able to just break the ignition switch and hot wire the car (as they can with the current keyed systems). However, even this 'advantage' will probably be ephemeral, once this system is present on more vehicles (and, presumably, implementation of an electronic system would begin on higher-end vehicles) it will be reverse-engineered and the 'advantage' will be gone. Meanwhile, on the negative side, a long-used mechanical system has been replaced by a new electronic system. The ordinary car key has been used for so long that the implementation is practically foolproof from a mechanical and use standpoint. This keyless, electronic implementation being relatively new means that the MTBF of this system is probably much shorter, and would likely cost more to repair, when this is needed. Overall, not a clear enough benefit to move to this "keyless" system...

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