As remote keyless entry (RKE) and engine starting systems become available on an increasing number of production vehicles, Lear Corp. is aiming to significantly improve their comfort and convenience benefits with its next-generation 2-way RKE system.
Unlike most key fobs, which feature only lock, unlock, accessory (trunk/hatch) and panic-mode controls, Lear's new RKE system utilizes advanced radio frequency technology to remotely start the vehicle's engine and regulate its climate-control system, while also performing the duties of a conventional key fob, says Mike Fawaz, Lear vice president-electronics.
Features unique to the Lear unit include four multifunction buttons and a small liquid-crystal display that provides visual feedback of the vehicle's security status and can verify if the vehicle is locked or unlocked and whether the remote start system has been successfully engaged. It also indicates cabin temperature.
Once the vehicle has been started, the fob's multifunction buttons can be used to set passenger compartment temperature. A pre-set timer is displayed on the screen and counts down the time remaining before the vehicle shuts off if left unattended. Other features include a digital clock display, an out-of-range indicator and an intruder alarm.
The system's software and electrical architecture easily can be configured to suit a particular auto maker's application. More advanced features, such as remote garage door and home lighting control, may be available in the future, Fawaz says.
The system has a range of about 656 ft. (200 m), more than triple the distance of the current system Lear supplies to General Motors Corp. for use in the Chevrolet Malibu, the car that introduced factory-installed remote start systems to the U.S. market when it was redesigned for '04.
Fawaz says Lear may increase the operating frequency of the system to boost its range to nearly 1,640 ft. (500 m), a requirement of one German auto maker interested in the technology.
Lear is working with several global auto makers on integrating the system into their vehicles and reducing the cost of the technology, which Fawaz estimates to be about 10%-20% greater than that of a conventional RKE system.
However, he confirms that two Asian auto makers will debut the system on several '08 models.
Additionally, the system can incorporate programming to work with Lear's new passive entry system, which automatically unlocks the doors when it senses the fob is near the vehicle and allows for the engine to be started without using a key.
Lear currently is in talks with GM's Cadillac division and several Asian auto makers for application of the passive entry system in '08 or '09 models.
Lear's forward-looking plans also include the continued development of its Integrated Wireless Control Unit (IWCU), which mounts inside of a vehicle's steering column or instrument panel and serves as an all-in-one junction box for on-board radio frequency technologies, such as RKE, remote start, tire-pressure monitoring and vehicle anti-theft immobilizers.
This approach, Fawaz says, consolidates the various radio frequency receivers currently used to manage these technologies into a single unit, providing a significant cost reduction for auto makers.
Fawaz also confirms that Lear is supplying DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group with the IWCU as part of an optional remote vehicle-start system that the auto maker will offer on '06 models of its 300 Series sedan and Dodge Durango SUV built early next year.
Lear has supplied Chrysler with conventional RKE systems since '03. However, the new contract will increase the supplier's content in the vehicle to include a new remote key fob/hard key transmitter, IWCU radio frequency receiver, TPMS, vehicle immobilizer and all the associated remote start electronics.
Pricing for the Chrysler system has yet to be determined, but Fawaz estimates that Lear could supply the auto maker with 50,000-200,000 units next year, depending on demand.
GM recently has increased its applications of remote start technology as well and currently offers the systems on several other Chevrolet and Pontiac models in addition to the Malibu.
RKE system installations in the U.S. increased from 59.4% in 1999 to 85.8% in 2004, according to Ward's data.