Major security shortcomings in some of Britain's most popular cars have been revealed by Autocar's sibling brand What Car?. Certain models are at risk of being stolen in a matter of seconds.
Three cars scored particularly poorly in What Car?’s keyless technology investigation. The worst performing was the new DS 3 Crossback, in top-spec Ultra Prestige guise, which could be entered and started in as little as 10 seconds using key code grabbing technology.
The Audi TT RS Roadster could be driven away in the same timeframe, but only if its keyless entry system was active and anti-theft motion sensor technology had not disabled the keyfob. With these preventative measures in place, the car could not be entered or driven.
The 2018 Land Rover Discovery Sport test car performed better, although could still be stolen in 30 seconds because it was not equipped with JaguarLand Rover’s new ultra-wide-band radio technology, which prevents replication of the key’s radar signal by transmitting on a wide range of frequencies. This system is available on current models.
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Best performing in the tests were BMW’s X3 SUV and the Ford Fiesta. It took What Car?’s security experts 40 seconds to gain entry to each vehicle, and another 20 to drive them away.
Some brands, including BMW, Ford and Mercedes-Benz, have rolled out motion detector technology which effectively shuts down a key’s radar signal when it is not in use. This makes it more difficult for thieves to use a scanner to lock onto the signal and gain entry to the vehicle.
Of the seven models tested by What Car?’s security experts, none could be stolen when their keyfobs had been deactivated, although this functionality has not been universally adopted by manufacturers.
What Car? editor Steve Huntingford said: “It is outrageous that some car makers have introduced keyless entry and start systems without making them anywhere near as secure as the traditional alternatives they’ve replaced.
“It is great news that a small number of brands are taking the problem of car theft seriously, but more needs to be done to improve security, particularly of used models.”
Reacting to the results of the survey, SMMT Chief Executive Mike Hawes said: “Vehicle manufacturers are continually investing and developing new security features – including motion sensing key fobs and other technologies - to try and stay one step ahead of criminals, which is an ongoing and extremely costly battle.
"There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution and brands will have their own individual strategies to combat vehicle theft with lead-times to engineer, test and source new counter-measures varying across the industry. Ultimately, however, technology can only do so much and this is why industry continues to call for action to prevent the open sale of devices used by criminals to steal cars.”
Earlier this year, security expert Thatcham Research detailed a new five-tier vehicle security rating system, ranging from ‘unacceptable’ to ‘superior’, depending on a car’s vulnerability to theft. The new system was designed in response to a spike in driveway car thefts, made easier by modern keyless entry technology.
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