Today’s High Tech Cars Could Drive More Auto Theft

  • February 13, 2018
  • Scott at LoJack
High Tech Cars

Many features on today’s economy car would have been expensive options on yesterday’s high-performance luxury automobile. Those high tech features can drive up the costs of a crash, and may have a chain reaction of high auto theft. A proliferation of sensors, computers, connected devices, safety features, climate and entertainment systems have turned the everyday auto into a networked array of technology. After a collision, all of this tech means more expensive repairs. Parts like headlights and windshields, which used to be simple molded glass, are now full of sensors, wiring, and expensive electronics.

It’s no secret that more expensive parts and repairs are resulting in higher insurance premiums. What is surprising, however, is the degree to which a demand for increasingly expensive parts is driving car thieves and chop shops to steal more cars. According to the Boston Globe, distracted driving is increasing the number and frequency of car crashes, while more expensive and complex repair parts increase the repair cost for each collision. This creates a marketplace for new or seemingly-new repair parts, and car thieves can step in to fill the demand.

Thieves go looking for the parts that are easiest to steal and command the highest prices: steering wheels, airbags, xenon headlights, and custom wheels, according to the IAATI.  These parts can be sold to unscrupulous collision repair shops where they are passed on to unsuspecting consumers during repairs.

High Tech Key Fob Hacks to Steal Cars

In addition to providing a financial incentive to thieves, today’s sophisticated technology is ironically offering ways for thieves to steal cars. Higher-end vehicles equipped with high tech passive keyless entry start (PKES) systems use radio waves from a trusted key fob to open and lock car doors and authenticate the driver before allowing the vehicle to start. First, a low-frequency beacon in the vehicle sends a signal to wake up the key fob. The key fob then sends an ultra-high-frequency (UHF) response to the vehicle. If this response is intercepted, it can be used to unlock and start the vehicle, and even to create a new key fob. Once thieves drive the vehicle to a chop shop, it can be disassembled quickly into lucrative parts. This makes high-end German and Japanese vehicles both attractive for their expensive parts and easier for sophisticated thieves to steal. It’s no coincidence that the equipment for cloning key fobs is not difficult for auto dealers and repair facilities to obtain.

Vehicle tracking technology has been used successfully to break up car theft rings that targeted specific makes and models. By tracing a stolen vehicle, law enforcement can uncover chop shops and garages that buy stolen parts. More importantly, these systems can help you recover your stolen car before thieves have the opportunity to strip it for parts. For more information about vehicle tracking and stolen vehicle recovery, see out page on the LoJack Stolen Vehicle Recovery System.