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Car Thieves Use Handheld Electronics to Steal Keyless Cars

A growing number of car thefts involve criminals using equipment to reprogram remote entry keys

2 min read
Car Thieves Use Handheld Electronics to Steal Keyless Cars
Photo: iStockphoto

Cars that allow owners to simply press a button on a remote control to start up their vehicles have become increasingly tempting targets for car thieves. The incidence of keyless car thefts has risen as criminals simply buy handheld electronic devices online that can reprogram access to luxury vehicles such as Range Rovers.

The security risk has grown to the point where insurance companies have begun refusing coverage to drivers in London who own keyless vehicles but don’t stash their expensive rides in underground parking lots or other secure locations, says an article inThe Guardian. Car thieves have made plying their illicit trade much easier by simply bypassing the security of the keyless ignition systemswith devices that are normally used by legitimate auto workshops for vehicle maintenance. The criminals have equipped themselves with these master keys by purchasing them on eBay.

The criminal act of stealing vehicles through the re-programming of remote-entry keys is an ongoing industry-wide problem,” said Jaguar Land Rover in a statement.

Jaguar Land Rover also cited a number of vehicles vulnerable to such theft, including the Ford Fiesta and Focus, Range Rover Evoque, Ford Transit and Mercedes Sprinter.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), a UK-based motor industry association, has pushed for new laws to address the problem, according to BBC News. SMMT wants to strengthen the regulations surrounding the use of such equipment and increase the punishments relating to equipment misuse.

Car manufacturers currently provide open access to the necessary technical information so that independent auto repair shops can service the after-market for such keyless ignition vehicles. Criminals have been able to exploit that fact by obtaining the usual maintenance equipment for their own purposes.

Vehicle thefts have fallen in the UK over the past decade, which mirrors a similar trend in the U.S. But the spate of luxury vehicle thefts in the UK may partly reflect how easily keyless ignition vehicles can be compromised with readily-available electronic equipment.

It should come as no surprise that modern cars dependent upon electronics could be vulnerable to such security risks. In 2011, Swiss researchers showed how they wirelessly hacked such keyless ignition systems—also called smart keys—for a number of vehicles. More recently, U.S. researchers surveyed the vulnerabilities of a new generation of “smart cars” that cellular and bluetooth communications, car apps, and “cyberphysical features” related to the car being able to perform actions such as autonomous braking.

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Chinese Joint Venture Will Begin Mass-Producing an Autonomous Electric Car

With the Robo-01, Baidu and Chinese carmaker Geely aim for a fully self-driving car

4 min read
A black car sits against a white backdrop decorated with Chinese writing. The car’s doors are open, like a butterfly’s wings. Two charging stations are on the car’s left; two men stand on the right.

The Robo-01 autonomous electric car shows off its butterfly doors at a reveal to the media in Beijing, in June 2022.

Tingshu Wang/Reuters/Alamy
Purple

In October, a startup called Jidu Automotive, backed by Chinese AI giant Baidu and Chinese carmaker Geely, officially released an autonomous electric car, the Robo-01 Lunar Edition. In 2023, the car will go on sale.

At roughly US $55,000, the Robo-01 Lunar Edition is a limited edition, cobranded with China’s Lunar Exploration Project. It has two lidars, a 5-millimeter-wave radars, 12 ultrasonic sensors, and 12 high-definition cameras. It is the first vehicle to offer on-board, AI-assisted voice recognition, with voice response speeds within 700 milliseconds, thanks to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8295 chip.

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