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Should Cars Be Easier To Steal?

It's no secret that modern cars have become a lot more complicated in the anti-theft department.

From transponder chips in the keys, to blaring alarms and steering locks too, there are more measures in place now than ever before.

So why is there an argument at all for removing some of it entirely?

Put simply, we're not against vehicle's having security systems at all. In fact we're completely for well tested, carefully thought out security measures.

However, while we are completely for well thought out security measures, many modern manufacturers have taken to using a particular measure called security coding that is at it's least a painful hindrance to repairs and, at it's worst, one of the quickest ways to turn a complete car into a brick.

Security coding has been around for a good few years now and the theory behind it is immaculate. Upon each start of the car, all the computers send a security code around an electronic bus network to confirm that they are right for the car. Once all the messages are received, the car starts and drives like normal.

However, if the messages are missing or corrupt in any way, the car will do a number of things to prevent the theft. Everything from stopping the car from running to disabling features in the hopes thieves are deturbed from stealing in the first place.

Additionally, these security codes are also permanently attached to many of the computers throughout the system meaning that (if the module was taken and put in another car) it just won't work. This drastically reduces the incentive of stealing things like radios and prevents cars from being stolen by introducing a module with a different code.

So what's the problem? So far this is a completely valid way to prevent thief's from taking cars off the street.

The problem comes in these systems by looking at what happens when they go wrong. While the engineers at these manufacturers might believe their designs will last indefinitely, on older cars failures do occur. Especially when you consider how different the environment each car operates in.

For example, many Fiat/Alfa Romeo cars from the last 10-15 years have a weak point in the Bluetooth computer for the radio. When this module fails, it can lead to everything from the dash flickering and the radio not working to the car not starting at all.

Because of the inability to confirm correct security code, the whole system is put in jeopardy. A problem when these modules can be thousands of dollars to replace and require a special coding procedure.

This isn't the worst case scenario though. While this might register the car unusable for a few months, at least the Fiat modules are still available.

Unfortunately the worst case scenario comes about when these modules are no longer available. While there are some instances of second hand computers being able to be re-written with the correct security code for the vehicle, many of these modules can only be programmed with the security code once in their life.

On top of this, many manufacturers produce a low number of replacement modules in the first place as they don't expect them to fail. In situations like this, some (if not a lot) of these cars face being unrepairable in the case of a module failure. I.e. turning a perfectly good car into a brick.

Can we say it's surprising that this is the way these cars are made? Not really.

Manufactures have long been looking for a way to make sure their cars are harder to steal. But is it worth turning a 10 year old car into a brick to prevent someone stealing a radio? Maybe not.


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