Vehicle theft is a huge problem in the UK, with over 130,000 vehicles stolen each year. This crime wave costs motorists and insurers over £1 billion annually in claims and increased premiums. Fortunately, new technologies are emerging that can dramatically reduce vehicle thefts and associated insurance costs. This article explores the most promising of these technologies.
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One of the most basic and effective anti-theft devices is the electronic immobiliser system. These systems prevent the engine from starting unless the correct key or passcode is used. As immobilisers became standard in most new cars sold after 1997, overall vehicle thefts dropped by 65% between 1997 and 2015. Upgrading older cars with aftermarket immobiliser systems can make them significantly less appealing targets for thieves.
GPS tracking systems such as a Thatcham GS tracker, which is an insurance approved GPS tracker, provide real-time location monitoring of vehicles via satellite or mobile networks. Some GPS insurance tracker systems come with added features like movement sensors, remote immobilisation, and driving behaviour monitoring. When a vehicle fitted with an insurance GPS tracker is stolen, police can quickly pinpoint its location and recover it before thieves dismantle it for parts. As more motorists add such systems, thieves may eventually decide vehicle theft is not worth the risk.
Several apps allow vehicle owners to use their smartphones to monitor and control their cars remotely. Apps like Where’s My Car and Auto Guardian enable features like seeing the vehicle’s exact location, setting up geofenced alerts if it leaves an area, remotely immobilising it, and tracking it in real-time if stolen. As smartphone usage continues to climb, more motorists are likely to embrace such apps to protect against theft.
In-car dashcams are gaining popularity in the UK partly due to their ability to reduce insurance costs. But many models also have park modes that use motion sensors to record incidents when the vehicle is parked. Thieves caught on camera breaking into a vehicle are less likely to make a successful claim against the owner’s insurance. And footage of someone stealing or vandalising a car can aid police investigations. Wide adoption of dashcams could deter some thieves from targeting vehicles likely to capture them in the act.
Aftermarket Security Systems
Vehicle owners can invest in sophisticated aftermarket alarm and security packages using cutting-edge technology. Features like ultrasonic interior monitoring, battery and voltage discharge protection, onboard alert pagers, and remote apps give these systems an advantage over factory-installed models. With custom-fit components working seamlessly together, advanced security packages can provide very effective and multi-layered protection.
Biometric Driver Recognition Systems
An emerging vehicle security application is biometric driver recognition technology. Systems that use fingerprint, facial, voice and other biometric identification methods to enable ignition and operation prevent unauthorised people from driving the vehicle. Though still a niche market, these systems could someday be as ubiquitous as immobilisers. Preventing thieves from simply smashing a window and hotwiring a vehicle could reduce theft rates dramatically.
Additional Emerging Threat Detection Technologies
Along with the technologies described above, there are several other promising vehicle security innovations:
- Perimeter Protection Sensors – exterior radar, ultrasonic and optical sensors can detect activity immediately around the vehicle and send alerts to the owner if someone lingers near or attempts to tamper with locks or body panels.
- Infrared Glass Break Sensors – detect the sound frequency signature of vehicle window glass shattering. Alerts owners within seconds of a break-in attempt.
- Artificial Intelligence Image Processing – onboard cameras with AI technology automatically identify suspicious activity and alert owners in real time. Can also capture clear images of perpetrators.
- Drone Detection – external microphones using gunshot detection algorithms can identify approaching drones often used to scope out vehicles to steal. Alerts owners before thieves commence attack.
- Onboard Cybersecurity – hardware and software solutions to block hacking, spoofing and exploits of vehicle computer and control systems through wireless and wired hacks. Prevents keyless thefts.
- Precision GPS Fencing – GPS tracking systems gain vastly improved accuracy with augmentation technologies like differential GPS and inertial sensors. Can pinpoint a stolen vehicle to precise parking spot rather than just street location.
- Self-Healing Coatings – polymer coatings filled with micro-capsules of healing agents automatically repair scratches and damage to paint and finishes. Makes thieves work harder to disguise stolen vehicles.
Motorists Have More Options Than Ever
With recent advances in GPS tracking, wireless networking, smartphones apps, dashcams, biometrics and other technologies, motorists now have more options than ever before for protecting their cars and trucks from thieves. Widespread adoption of these modern systems could save UK motorists and insurers over £1 billion in annual losses from vehicle theft. So, both economic and technological forces seem aligned to soon make stealing cars a far less lucrative endeavour. Companies bringing these solutions to market could see dramatic growth. And if vehicle theft rates plunge as an indirect effect, the UK as a whole may benefit from safer streets and lower auto insurance premiums.