The need to protect cars from theft and burglary has been around for a long time, but not quite for as long as the automobile. There was no need for protection against theft through the use of an ignition key instead of a rotary switch. Around 1900, starting a car was a rather complex undertaking involving some ten steps. And using a hand crank was demanding as well. Only properly trained drivers could master it. As a result, car theft was not an issue, but that changed when easy-to-use customer demands became more important. In 1911, Bosch started supplying ignition switches requiring a key and helped to solve that problem. This was the beginning of theft deterrence systems.
Protecting cars from people who want to break into cars and rob their content without stealing them is another central aspect of automotive locking systems. A century ago, that was not the case. Until around 1920, early automobiles were open, making it useless to lock a door. In fact, some did not even have any doors. Locking cars did not enter the picture until automobiles with canopy tops, doors, and closed roofs became popular in the 1920s. The new trends offered a practical deterrent against vandalism and theft. Drivers could safely leave objects lying in their cars.
Until the 1960s, some cars still had different keys for the doors and the ignition. A combined key for all purposes, the precursor of today’s locking systems, gained popularity as the decade wore on. Drivers used the key to start the car by briefly but forcefully turning it clockwise in the ignition.
Meanwhile, Keyless Go systems with programmable chip cards have become standard. But even the cards could be a part of the past any time soon. Why? Have a look here.