An ultrasonic fingerprint sensor in the door handle and one on the steering wheel would remove the need for a key fob completely.

Fingerprint sensors are becoming increasingly common on smartphones, but TDK wants to expand their use to the vehicles we drive. Say goodbye to the key fob and hello to fingerprint access on your next new car.

As Nikkei XTech reports, at the Automotive Engineering Expo 2019 held in Pacifico Yokohama back in May, TDK Corp. was showing off an ultrasonic wave-based fingerprint sensor for use as a smart lock on vehicles. On display were two such sensors, one in a door handle and the other in a steering wheel.

Because the fingerprint sensor is ultrasonic it can be placed underneath glass, which works well if the sensor needs to be accessible on the outside of a vehicle to control access. It also works regardless of whether the finger being scanned is wet or dry, which again makes it ideal for use in a car door handle (and wet weather).

By placing one sensor in the door handle and the other in the center of the steering wheel, TDK is offering vehicle manufacturers two levels of authentication. The first allows access to the car and the second the ability to drive it away. For the owner, it means there's no need to carry around a key fob and therefore nothing to lose. All you need is your finger! It also means families could setup access to the car for their kids, but not allow them to start the engine using the steering wheel sensor.

How popular this access solution proves to be with vehicle manufacturers will ultimately come down to cost and reliability. Even if it costs a bit more than key fobs, it makes up for that by adding convenience for the driver, but also being highly durable because the sensor is always going to be protected behind glass.

For now, the idea remains a prototype, but one that could quickly be turned into a commercial product and find its way into high-end vehicles.

By Matthew Humphries

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