DATE: February 28, 1992

FROM: Stephen E. Selander -- Attorney, GM Legal Staff

TO: Paul Jackson Rice -- Office of the Chief Counsel, NHTSA

TITLE: Re: General Motors Corporation; FMVSS 114; Request for Interpretation

ATTACHMT: Attached to letter dated 5/22/92 from Paul J. Rice to Stephen E. Selander (A39; Std. 114)


General Motors Corporation (GM) is designing an electronic key locking ignition system which we would like to offer for sale in the near future. GM believes that this system meets the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 114 without using a conventional mechanical key. In view of the novelty of this approach, GM would like to have the concurrence of the NHTSA with our opinion.

FMVSS 114 S.3 Definitions includes the following definition of a "Key":

Key includes any other device designed and constructed to provide a method for operating a locking system which is designed and constructed to be operated by that device.

An electronic "Key" is consistent with the preamble to the Final Rule - FMVSS 114 (33 Fed.Reg. 6472 (1968)) where the following appears at the top of the middle column:

The term "key" is defined so as to include methods of activating the locking system other than the commonly accepted concept of a key.

This electronic key locking system would be operated by a key (an electronic code) entered and removed by the operator. When the key is entered into the locking system by the operator, a match is made with an electronic code stored in the system's memory. This match is analogous to the tumblers of a conventional lock cylinder matching the cut of a conventional key.

When a correct key match occurs, the person could then move the locking system out of the lock position to other positions such as accessory, off, on, or start, in order to activate the vehicle's engine, motor, or accessories.

With the locking system out of the lock position, the transmission can be shifted out of the "PARK" position in order to operate the vehicle. The transmission shift lever must be returned to the "PARK" position in order to place the locking system back into the lock position.

Placement of the locking system back into the lock position by the operator would automatically cause removal of the key from the system. At that time, re-entry of the correct key (electronic code) would be necessary to operate the vehicle.


A key locking system, using an electronic key code other than a conventional mechanical key, has been developed which, GM believes, will meet the requirements of FMVSS 114.

However, GM requests the concurrence of the NHTSA regarding the definition of "Key" so that design work can continue and the system can be offered to the public in a timely manner.

If helpful, we would be pleased to demonstrate an example of the system under development.

If the agency has any questions or requires additional information, please contact me on (313) 974-1704.