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Toyota owners to pay $8/mo to keep using their key fob for remote start

Automobile manufacturers are constantly vying for a piece of that sweet, sweet subscription revenue. It’s now Toyota’s turn.

Almost every automobile manufacturer has a subscription service, and Toyota has one called Remote Connect. The service includes the normal features, such as allowing owners to remotely lock their doors or prepare their interior if they have a plug-in vehicle. However, as some complimentary Remote Connect memberships expire, Toyota owners may be surprised to learn that they can no longer use their key fob to remotely start their vehicles.

In terms of technology, using the fob to unlock the automobile is the same as utilising the remote start option. The fobs send a signal to the car through a short-range radio transmitter that is encrypted with rolling codes. The automobile then decrypts the signal and executes the specified action, such as locking or unlocking the doors, sounding the horn, or starting the engine. Since the 1980s, RF key fobs have been available, and in 2004, GM added a factory-installed remote-start option (no subscription needed).

The car or the fob do not communicate with any Toyota-managed servers, and key fob remote start has nothing to do with an app.

Owners of 2018 Toyotas have just discovered that the fob’s operation is contingent on keeping an active Remote Connect subscription, as the vehicles’ third birthday approaches. Audio Plus automobiles receive a three-year “trial,” whereas Premium Audio vehicles receive a ten-year trial. The key fob remote start, however, stops operating once their subscriptions expire. Toyota did not alter the restrictions, despite the fact that this information was hidden in the fine print. Toyota merely disables one of the functionalities on the key fob already in the owner’s possession when the time comes. Owners must pay $8 per month or $80 per year to reclaim the feature.

Even if key-fob remote start for such vehicles was also related to Remote Connect, if you have a Toyota produced before November 12, 2018, you won’t have to pay. Toyota claims to have “improved” such vehicles so that owners can utilise the feature without having to pay a monthly fee.

What is the purpose of the cutoff? It may appear to be an odd date, but it marks the end of Toyota’s production of vehicles equipped with 3G chips. Owners of older Toyotas will be unable to subscribe to or use Remote Connect services when telecommunications networks phase out. Toyota just flicked a switch and gave access to everyone in that group because key fob remote start doesn’t require an Internet connection.

It’s a lovely gesture, but it only serves to emphasize that there’s no technological rationale for a remote services package to contain RF-powered key fob functions.