Thatcham safety rates new keyless vehicles

Thatcham safety rates new keyless vehicles

Thatcham Research has given four of seven new vehicles a poor safety rating because of their keyless entry/start systems. All four would have received good ratings were it not for this.

These ratings come after the news that theft claims paid by insurers in the first quarter of this year were at their highest level for any quarter since 2012, with payments made to a car crime victim every eight minutes.

Richard Billyeald, chief technical officer, Thatcham Research, said, 'These figures demonstrate why the automotive industry must move to secure keyless entry/start systems, many of which offer criminals the chance to quickly and silently circumvent otherwise robust physical security.'

Of the seven new cars tested, four have keyless entry/start systems susceptible to the Relay Attack and have therefore been rated Poor – whether optional or standard.

Richard continued, 'Were it not for the keyless entry/start vulnerability, all the cars assessed would have earned a Good rating or better.'

The DS3 Crossback, Mazda 3, Toyota RAV-4 and Volvo S60 all received poor ratings because of a lack of security surrounding keyless entry/start systems.

The BMW 7 Series, BMW X7, and Porsche 911 all received superior security ratings. They all retained their Superior ratings through the introduction of motion sensor enabled fobs. If the sensor detects the fob hasn't moved for a short period, it idles and goes into sleep mode. This effectively prevents criminals with Relay Attack kit from extending the range of the communication between car and fob.

Richard said, 'BMW and Porsche have acted decisively to secure vulnerable keyless entry / start systems. Fixes are not exclusive to premium cars, there are fixes coming through on the big-sellers too, with Ford recently announcing that it has introduced a new, more secure fob for its latest Fiesta and Focus model ranges. We're seeing solutions applied to some new cars, let's see them applied to all.'

Earlier this year the Audi e-tron, Jaguar XE, Land Rover Evoque, Mercedes B-Class and Porsche Macan were also given Superior ratings, which can only be achieved when a solution to the keyless entry/start vulnerability is in place.

Keyless entry/start systems are frequently offered by carmakers as an additional cost option but can also be standard-fit. The BMW 7 Series and BMW X7 come with the system as standard, while it is an option with the remaining cars assessed.

New car buyers should ask the right questions in the dealership, Richard suggests.

'Keyless entry/start systems are often optional or included with trim levels, so buyers need to understand that they could raise the theft risk profile of their new car by ticking that box. Buyers that do want it, and many do as it's a good convenience function, should ask their dealer if a fix has been introduced.

'Owners can also protect their fob with a Faraday shielding pouch. While some fobs can be turned off overnight – the Mazda 3's fob has this function for example. However, solutions which rely on active participation from the driver are not included in the rating.'