PATS, short for "Passive Anti-Theft System," is a security system designed by the Ford Motor Company to help reduce vehicle theft and make cars more secure. PATS was first introduced in 1996 in luxury Ford brands, such as Mercury and Lincoln. The antitheft program has since spread to many other vehicles in the company's automotive line-up. PATS was designed to add an electrical code to the ignition key, making it difficult to duplicate. This ensures that only the vehicle's owner may start and drive the car. PATS utilises a small transponder for this purpose.
Hidden inside an ignition key used for PATS is a small transponder. This small device consists of a microchip and a tiny antenna. When this key is inserted into the ignition of the car, the transponder sends a specific code to the vehicle. The computer inside the vehicle is programmed with the correct code. Because the code used in PATS has several billion possible combinations, each key is completely specific.
When the vehicle's on-board computer has confirmed that the proper code has been sent, the engine activates electronically and the car will start. If the codes do not match, however, the computer inside the vehicle will not allow the engine to start.
Since PATS was added as a standard feature on Ford vehicles, drive-away theft rates have dropped dramatically. While vehicle theft is still possible, PATS helps deter the majority of auto thieves by increasing the time and effort needed to steal a car.
Additionally, PATS enables vehicle owners to keep their cars secure if a key is lost. Without PATS, any unauthorised person can start the vehicle with a key that has been found. Using PATS, however, a Ford owner can have his vehicle's specific code changed any time a key is lost. This ensures that only the authorised keys will start the car.
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