State of the Art - How Modern In-car Technologies are Deterring Vehicle Theft in the UK

July 31, 2013

Sharing is Caring

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in America, a vehicle is stolen every 43 seconds. (As a comparison, in England and Wales, the theft rate is approximately one every five minutes). With such frightening statistics, it's easy to see why people are looking for ways to improve the security of their car. Over time, various developments in technology have produced a range of after-market accessories designed to keep vehicles safe and secure, reducing their chances of being stolen.

When cars first appeared on the road, security was not much of a concern.  As time went on, however, manufacturers came up with devices to keep vehicles safe from unwanted attention. Eventually, engine immobilizers and locks became standard items with new cars. Immobilizers tend to use advanced cryptography to prevent the code on the key fob from being copied, thus reducing the risk of a thief being able to start the car.

Of course, there are now even more advanced immobilizers available that also use the assistance of satellite technology. If an unauthorized attempt is made to code a key, the satellite sends an alert to the relevant security firm. This level of technology is quite frequently found on high-end vehicles that are of considerable value.

Smart keys
Smart keys come with many new cars and have replaced standard keys in some circumstances. The smart keys fit into the ignition and are pre-coded to ensure that only those keys will open the vehicles with which they are paired. This coding makes it considerably harder to create copies and they work in a similar way to the immobilizers. The technology has advanced to the point that the smart keys can actually allow you to unlock and start the car without even having to press buttons. Similarly, the car will lock just by you walking away with this key in your pocket. This smarter attitude to security can have a huge impact on the success of opportunistic thieves trying to make off with cars.

With the busy lives people lead, forgetting to lock the car is a very real prospect. However, the smart key removes reliance on memory and ensures the car is secured when the owner walks away from it. Although some concerns have been raised about this technology, if it reduces the number of thefts, it is clearly going to save owners and insurance companies money.

Tracking systems
The rise of GPS technology has proven to be a huge breakthrough for everyone, from the consumer, to the manufacturer, to government organizations. Something as simple as fitting a tracking device to your vehicle can drastically reduce the amount of time and money spent by the police, insurance companies, and you as the owner. The technology behind these tracking systems is quite complex and incredibly intelligent.

An electronic device pre-loaded with software created by the tracking company is fitted to the car. The software is accessed from an operational base by either the tracking company or the owners themselves, allowing them to see the exact location of the vehicle. GPS technology on the device captures the location information at regular points and sends it to the central server. The server then stores the information securely and offers it to the user, as and when necessary.

Help each other out
This system is also very helpful to government agencies, including the police. In the event that a car is stolen, the owner can activate the tracking device and give the exact location to the police. Rather than wasting time, fuel and money in a random search, officers can be dispatched to the exact location of the vehicle and recover it in considerably less time. Also, the faster the vehicle is located, the greater the chance the police will catch the thief in the process. Not only will the car be recovered, it may also bring down the number of future thefts if the police can successfully prosecute the thief.

Ultimately, having a tracking device fitted to your vehicle will only bring benefits to all the people involved in the recovery process. With this in mind, the government is said to be working with car manufacturers to get more cars fitted with tracking devices. It could become compulsory for all new cars to have one of the devices in a bid to cut down on the number of thefts.

Money savers
Trackers may also aid in insurance claims. The technology used in the GPS-enabled devices can record data including speed, driver weight, cornering and the general standard at which the car is driven. Insurance companies are now able to process this information and reward good drivers with discounts on their insurance premiums. While these particular trackers don't necessarily affect the security of the car directly, they can store various data on the driving style. This could potentially be used to catch criminals if the data show the vehicle is suddenly being driven quite differently from the usual standard.

If your car is stolen and it does not contain a tracking device, the chances of recovery are slim. The police will have little to go on as to where it may have been taken, meaning you could potentially be left out of pocket. You will have the option of either buying a new car yourself, or claiming on your insurance policy. The latter could result in increased insurance premiums. You may even have to pay more to subsidize the insurance payout if it doesn't cover the cost of a replacement.

Think smart
While trackers, immobilizers and smart keys can all work toward deterring vehicle theft, an element of responsibility lies with the vehicle owner. A tracker may help to recover a stolen car, but it doesn't necessarily stop a thief from breaking into the car. An insurance company is highly unlikely to pay out for a vehicle theft if that vehicle was left unlocked and unsecured in the first place. Ensuring the doors are locked, windows are closed and valuables are kept out of sight is key to maximizing the security of your vehicle.

Safety can be further enhanced by removing a home address from your satellite navigation system after use. Car thieves have been known to use these systems to target the homes of the vehicle owners, expanding the theft beyond just the car. Thinking smart and taking steps to ensure you have made your car as safe as possible are the first and best ways to limit the chances of it being stolen.


Sharing is Caring

Explore more: Location Intelligence

Geospatial Newsletters

Keep up to date with the latest geospatial trends!

Sign up

Search DM

Get Directions Magazine delivered to you
Please enter a valid email address
Please let us know that you're not a robot by using reCAPTCHA.
Sorry, there was a problem submitting your sign up request. Please try again or email

Thank You! We'll email you to verify your address.

In order to complete the subscription process, simply check your inbox and click on the link in the email we have just sent you. If it is not there, please check your junk mail folder.

Thank you!

It looks like you're already subscribed.

If you still experience difficulties subscribing to our newsletters, please contact us at