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Tracking services gaining momentum as fear of wireless hacking increases

Vodafone Automotive joins a number of companies reaching into the vehicle tracking segment

Vodafone Automotive has introduced a new vehicle tracking product for fleet and rental operators. The company, a business group formed from the acquisition of Italy-based Cobra Automotive, provides telematics, stolen vehicle tracking and usage based insurance (UBI) solutions.

The increasing level of technology going into new cars is making them safer in terms of reducing road collisions, but new threats are arising elsewhere. Wireless systems integrated within new cars are vulnerable to hacking, just as an email account would be. With the added risk of cars being stolen through this loophole, Vodafone Vehicle Defence (VVD) aims to tackle vehicle theft by providing an accurate and on-demand vehicle tracking system. As Phil Skipper, Director of M2M Business Development at Vodafone, told Automotive World, “It’s not particularly helpful to know your car’s been stolen; it’s really useful to know it’s been recovered.”

Nowhere to hide

VVD is a tracking device developed with rental fleets and OEMs in mind, and can be easily transferred between vehicles in just a few minutes. With the device fitted, the vehicle’s location is reported to Vodafone Automotive daily via GPS and GSM technology, and can constantly transmit the vehicle’s location to the Vodafone Automotive Secure Operating Centre. Assets can be tracked in 44 countries, with operatives liaising directly with local police forces to track down and recover the vehicle if stolen.

Vehicle theft in the UK in particular is a continuing problem. In 2014, almost 70,000 vehicles were stolen, yet recovery rates of stolen vehicles remain low, especially for those that are rented or leased. What’s more, just 1% of all stolen vehicles had a tracking system fitted, “despite the potential disruption and financial damage faced by a business when an asset is stolen,” Vodafone Automotive states.

Vodafone joins a number of companies seeing strong growth in demand for tracking devices. Tracker is part of Tantalum Corporation, a European company focussed on providing connected vehicle solutions. According to Tracker, some car security devices are vulnerable to “close-range wireless communication attacks” which clone a car key’s built-in immobilisers. This means that a car can be remotely unlocked without the owner’s knowledge.

Vodafone vehicle defence
Vodafone Vehicle Defence (VVD) aims to tackle vehicle theft by providing an accurate and on-demand vehicle tracking system

Worth the risk?

Adrian Davenport, Police Liason Manager at Tracker, told Automotive World, “The idea of these OEMs is to sell their products, and they don’t want to get a reputation of ‘don’t buy that car, because it’s going to go missing.’”He points out that “the big names are getting hacked” due to the increasing sophistication of new vehicles, which is being driven by customer demand: “Keyless access for the car is a lot easier for them, but it comes at a price.”

In fact, a recent survey carried out by Tracker revealed that 70% of motorists in the UK would think twice before buying a keyless car, simply to avoid being a target for car hackers. Although the results are taken from drivers in the UK, Davenport advises that similar results would likely show for anywhere else in the world.

Demand is also high across the pond. US-based LoJack is known for its vehicle theft recovery and advanced fleet management solutions. Its latest Fleet Management Lite service is driving sales for the company. Powered by TomTom, the service allows companies to monitor their fleet outside of working hours to resolve instances of vehicle theft.

LoJack Chief Executive Randy Ortiz commented in an earnings call in August that the company had delivered a profitable second quarter in 2015, demonstrating continued progress in rebuilding its “foundational Stolen Vehicle Recovery business, by reducing expenses while fully maintaining our focus on building future growth in key telematic segments.”
Freddie Holmes




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