Vehicles photo

Locksmiths and car thieves can both get excited over a new handheld device that electronically maps the inside of car locks and then provides the key code within seconds via USB cable connection to a computer. The key code, matched to the make of the car, allows key-cutting machines to churn out a replacement key. Popular Mechanics reports that the key replication only works for Ford vehicles so far — news that may leave bemused expressions on the faces of Ford owners.

The Electronic Key Impressioner (EKI) comes with common vehicle keyway inserts, a USB cable, and lock mapping software. That software connects to a database full of updated key codes, which also allows the system to remotely “brick” devices that have fallen into the wrong hands. But car manufacturers may not accept that reassurance, even as the EKI creators hope to expand their device’s ability to work with a wider range of cars. Unhappy automakers could render it useless by changing their lock technology completely.

Another caveat is that the system mainly works for old-fashioned keys, as opposed to newer car keys that contain transponders. But tools already exist for locksmiths or less savory characters to crack the transponder codes.

Either way, look for this magical key replacement (or Grand Theft Auto) device to come your way late this year.

Popular Mechanics