The Prius has two keys.
Key #1: The "regular" metal key, hidden inside the fob. Should the little battery inside the key fob die, you can pull out this "old fashioned" key and manually unlock the door.
Key #2: The fob. The fob's job is to open the door and allow you to start the engine. You don't need to do anything but carry it with you. You can push the buttons, but that's not necessary (unless of course, there's an emergency and you need the get the alarm to make noise). The fob lets you lock the doors by simply running your hand over the sensor on the door handle. Magic.
Unlike the "old" fobs with which I'm familiar, you don't need to take this one out of your pocket (or pocketbook). The keyless remote system locks (and unlocks) the door, and allows you to start the engine, as long as it's nearby (in your pocket or pocketbook).
But there is a downside to this kind of magic.
Before I left the lot with my new car, Toyota sales consultant, Rebecca Singer, warned me: Don't lose your fob, and don't drive off without your fob.
Fobs communicate with your vehicle's computer, she said. If you lose your key fob and your spare (Toyota gives you 2), you can't just call a locksmith. You'll need a tow to the nearest Toyota dealer. At it could cost you - way more than the price of a tow.
But what she said next seemed so far-fetched that it went through my right ear and out my left ear (she was sitting next to me in the front seat of the Prius as she gave my final tutorial).
"Let's say, you're driving and you go to Menards. Tom is with you, but he doesn't want to look at hardware. He wants an espresso (with jazz). The car engine is still running. You get out. He gets in and drives off to Panera Bread (a considerable distance away). He pulls into the Panera lot, parks the car and pushes the ignition button to turn the car 'off.' Only then he realizes - he doesn't have his fob. He cannot re-start the car. You'd have to get over there with your fob." Major inconvenience.
That could NEVER happen to me, I said. I ALWAYS wear my keys on a lanyard around my neck, so I don't lose them. I have similar neckwear for Tom. We're not likely to get into the car without our lanyards.
Well... this afternoon I have to admit I was so wrong about that.
Tom and I got into the Prius, and I drove it to the library - without my fob.
I was distracted with last minute plans for a trip out to Yellowstone National Park. We're leaving Friday. I needed to return some library books, and check out what they have on the wildlife of Montana, Wyoming and North Dakota.
I was feeling the "da da dom dom .. harmony ... between man, nature and machine" - watching the dashboard displays, setting the cruise control and listening to classical music on satellite radio. I was in a groove, getting 65 miles per gallon on the 10 mile drive.
I didn't give a thought to the whereabouts of my FOB, until I was in the library parking lot.
I put the car in "park" and pushed the ignition button to turn the car "off." As I was getting out of the car, it hit me. I didn't have my key-fob lanyard around my neck. I leaned into the car and looked at Tom. He wasn't wearing the lanyard I gave him for his fob. Yikes!
But how did the car start without my fob?
"Tom," I said in a panicked voice. "Where is your key fob?"
He confessed he didn't like the idea of a lanyard. His fob was in his pocket. I was totally clueless that it was his fob that allowed me access to the Prius engine.
"Keyless Ignition Lesson" learned.