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Here's Just How Easy It Can Be To Steal A Keyless Car

Jalopnik logo Jalopnik 8/19/2019 Elizabeth Blackstock

a blue car parked on the side of a road© Photo: Audi It’s no secret that keyless entry systems don’t fully protect you against car theft. That hasn’t prevented automakers from building such cars—or consumers from buying them—but this video showing how easy it is to steal several different keyless cars might start changing some minds.

Thieves Steal A Car In 20 Seconds By Remotely Cloning The Signal From A Keyless Fob

The video comes from What Car? on YouTube, which describes how easy it can be to steal some keyless start cars, whereas it can be impossible with others:

Basically, with keyless starts, your key emits a code that can be picked up by the car. That code is also pretty easily picked up by scanning devices, which can then replicate the code and direct it back to the car.

And, voila: a potential thief now has entry to your vehicle.

Replay Video

The video goes through several ways to protect your car from potential theft: deactivating your key fob, keep keys away from doors and windows, or just buy a wheel lock so that, even if someone gets into your car, they can’t take it anywhere.

Research

What Car? really gets into the nitty-gritty with this article, though. It actually tested out a bunch of different cars to see how difficult it would be to steal them. And the results are honestly pretty fascinating.

Among the test group was the Audi TT Roadster, the 2018 BMW X3, the DS3 Crossback Ultra Prestige, the Ford Fiesta, a Land Rover Discovery, a Land Rover Discovery Sport, and a Mercedes-Benz A-Class. Some of those had standard keys while others had keyless options, with the intention being to see if it’s any easier to steal a standard car as opposed to a keyless one.

The worst of the bunch was the DS 3 Crossback Ultra Prestige, which could be stolen in a mere 10 seconds. Keyless entry is standard, and, according to What Car?, the doors popped open after five seconds. From there, it was only only another further five before they could drive away with it.

Many cars had something called “smart keys” or “advanced keys.” Basically, that meant that they key could be deactivated and thus prevent those cars from being stolen. The Audi, BMW, Ford Fiesta, and Mercedes all had that feature in common. There was no way for thieves to enter the car without an activated key fob. (That said, once the fob was activated, thieves could still pretty easily drive off with your hard-earned daily driver.)

One of the most interesting results was actually the Land Rover Discovery. It was actually possible to use a lock picker to get into the car. However, once inside, the thieves weren’t able to start the car:

"The car was fitted with ultra-wide-band radio technology, which transmits over a wide range of frequencies at once to stop thieves from being able to pick up the signal"

In every single case where the thieves were able to drive away with the car, they were able to do so in under one minute.

At the end of the day, the keyless cars were easier to steal than those that had a standard key. Picking the lock often set off noisy alarms that alerted surrounding people that something was going wrong, whereas with keyless cars, there was no warning to owners that their car was being taken.

You can check out the full results on What Car?’s website to see how easy it is to steal a car when the world goes totally digital. It might be time to start making wheel locks a standard part of car ownership, huh?

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