No-driver cars: new theft threat

2012-06-08 13:35

Detroit, Michigan - Imagine this car-theft scenario in the not-so-distant future... given that new technologies have come fully into play and the garage door isn't locked.

A car thief uses an iPad to hack into the security system of a self-driving car parked in a garage in a distant city. He sends the GPS co-ordinates of a chop shop to the car's satnav and the car "steals" itself by calculating the route and heading solo for dismantlement.


This threat, according to the Detroit News, is the basis for a new field of automotive technology for identity verification at Covisint, a subsidiary of Detroit-based Compuware Corporation. It and other companies met in June 2012 at a Telematics Detroit conference in the US to discuss issues such as vehicle security and the intersection of telecommunications and information technology.

David Miller, Covisint's chief security officer, told the DetNews: "It's really important to make sure the guy unlocking the car is the owner."

Covisint is creating security systems that prevent anybody other than a car's owner or allowed driver getting into and driving off in a vehicle. The company is developing a web portal to sell to suppliers and automakers that drivers can use to verify their identity.

Jim Hall, MD of 2953 Analytics in Birmingham, Alabama, added: "Autonomous vehicles are going to raise issues we haven't thought about. How do you prevent someone from commandeering cars and moving them where they want to?"

If the idea of a car theft itself sounds far-fetched, consider that some systems such as General Motors' OnStar allow drivers to use a smart phone to unlock and start their car remotely.

The keyless entry systems used by a number of automakers has safeguards against theft by requiring a key fob to be in the car to unlock the steering column. A thief may be able to enter and even start a car using a smart phone but no key fob, no go.

"It's not possible to drive it away," Hall asserted.

"There are a lot bigger identity theft problems in other industries than there are in connected cars," Miller added, "but this is the time to build in protocols."

He's absolutely right!

  • robbie.crouch - 2012-06-08 13:59

    What has happened to "Keep it simple stupid!".

  • Heinrich - 2012-06-08 14:28

    A simple immobilizer that the user has to trigger solves this problem. Don't be such drama queens Detroit!

  • piet.strydom - 2012-06-08 14:57

    Keep on looking forward Detroit. When I send my car home from the airport, I want to be sure I can call it to come and fetch me when I arrive back.... And I can't leave a keyfob in the whole time. I also don't want to go to sleep on a long drive, and wake up in my kidnappers garage.... And I have to have a keyfob in the whole time. When I send my car to the next city to fetch my daughter from university for the weekend, I want the trip their and back to be completed successfully.... Cars are very soon guying to be computers with wheels - will you leave your laptop without a password?

  • renesongs - 2012-06-08 15:34

    Imagine if someone with a laptop computer hacks into your wireless network and steals all your confidential emails and information ... don't be thick Detroit, hacking and identity theft has been around for decades. Anyone who would buy a product that not secured from hacking deserves what they get.

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