Owners of keyless cars face being penalised with higher insurance premiums if they lack security measures to combat the rise in thefts of high-end vehicles.
From January next year, the vulnerability of keyless technology to theft will be included for the first time in official security ratings of cars that insurers use to set their premiums.
This means that cars with flaws in the technology or ineffective counter-measures will be downgraded due to their susceptibility to “relay attacks” where thieves hijack the key’s signal from inside an owner’s home to start the car and drive it away within minutes if not seconds.
Thefts of premium brand cars – many with keyless technology – doubled in the first ten months of 2019 to more than 14,300 compared with 6,600 in 2015, equivalent to one being stolen every 38 minutes, according to insurers Direct Line.
Aviva, one of Britain’s biggest insurers, says the number of theft claims it has processed relating to keyless cars has increased by 12 per cent in a year. It is now twice the rate of non-keyless vehicles where claims fell by six per cent.
The susceptibility of different brands of keyless cars will be rated by Thatcham Research, the insurance industry’s research body, in its new vehicle security assessment programme (NVSA).
It is used by insurers to set premiums alongside other factors such as the owner’s postcode, the driver’s age and profile and the value of the vehicle. The NVSA drove the introduction of security measures such as double locking doors and alarms that reversed a car theft epidemic in the 1990s.
A keyless fob should only connect with a car’s locking system within two metres of the vehicle but Richard Billyeald, Thatcham’s chief technical officer, said: “We also want these systems to have counter-measures to the relay attack. We don’t stipulate what they are but we want to see them.”