2019 Hyundai Santa Fe SUV Debuts with Fingerprint Scanner

While much of the world remains impressed by the idea of smart keys, at least one company is showing us how the technology is so very last year. At a car show in China this week, Hyundai unveiled its 2019 Santa Fe SUV (they have dropped the “Sport”), complete with a fingerprint ID system. In other words, it’s a bit like your iPhone, but in a vehicle. Americans shouldn’t get too excited, however: the Korea Herald is reporting that the fingerprint technology in the fourth-generation Santa Fe SUV unveiled at the 16th China Guangzhou International Automobile Exhibition is tailored to satisfy the needs of Chinese consumers only.

The fingerprint system, which is built into both the door handle and the ignition, allows drivers to open and lock doors and even start the engine without keys. The new Santa Fe is also 16 inches longer than the previous model, and has other high-tech amenities, as well: it’s equipped with a Baidu Duer voice recognition system as well as a wireless smartphone charger. The new Santa Fe, which comes with a two-liter gasoline turbo GDi engine, will be available for purchase in China in the first quarter of 2019.

Just as with your iPhone, multiple drivers will be able to register their encrypted fingerprint data for the same vehicle. And once the vehicle knows who’s driving, it will automatically adjust the seat positions and the angle of the rearview mirrors for that person. (Future models, according to Hyundai, might even add personalized temperature, humidity, and steering settings.)

The fingerprint system is reasonably secure, as it uses more than just recognizing a fingerprint. It can also differentiate between the electricity levels in different parts of the finger to prevent hacking or faked fingerprints and boasts an error rate of only 1 in 50,000 (about the same as Apple in its fingerprint recognition for devices).

While the Hyundai Santa Fe is the first car to put a fingerprint reader into a vehicle door handle and ignition button, it’s not the first vehicle to give keys (smart or otherwise) short shrift in favor of fingerprints. The Tesla Model 3 allows drivers to start their cars with a smartphone-enabled fingerprint scan.

Don’t forget your house keys, though. Your Santa Fe won’t be able to help you with that.