This weekend I rented a car that had a push button starter. The first time I heard about push button starters, I thought they were some kind of gimmick, but after driving a car with one for a few days I figured out which problem they were designed to solve.
Back in the day, you had your car key. (Or if you drove a General Motors car, you had at least two car keys. One for the doors and one for the ignition. How dumb is that?) Eventually, though, pretty much every car came with both a key and a key fob used to turn off the car alarm, unlock the doors, and so forth. The push button starter was created to remove one item from your pocket. Since you can’t get rid of the fob, car makers have started getting rid of the ignition key. As long as you have the fob, you can start the car with a button push.
There are two additional advantages to this system beyond eliminating key chain clutter. The first is that you can put your keys back in your pocket as soon as you’ve unlocked the doors. Being a creature of habit, I never remembered to do so and wound up driving with my keys in the cup holder all weekend, but I’m sure I’d adjust before too long if I owned such a car. The other advantage is that the system makes it nearly impossible to lock your keys in the car. Since there’s no key in the ignition, you won’t leave your keys there, and if you use the key fob to lock the doors, it’s guaranteed you’ll have your keys with you when you’re walking away from the car. That’s a nice benefit for the absent-minded.
It’s always interesting to discover that there’s a reasonable rationale for something you originally regarded as a novelty feature.