The other day there was a blog posting regarding a requirement in a budget bill that all new cars manufactured after some date have “remote engine immobilisers.” Most new cars already have engine immobilisers. The idea being that even if you put the key in the ignition and turn it, nothing will happen.

It requires that your key talk to the car and tell it that you are indeed authorized to use the car. It means that you can give somebody a “regular” key and they can use it to physically unlock your car but even if that key were to fit they can’t start the car.

This stops thieves from just forcing the lock or otherwise bypassing the ignition switch. There are stories of older car locks being bypassed by the thief jamming a big screwdriver into the keyhole and then forcing the cylinder to rotate. Just shearing all the pins that keep that cylinder from rotating.

Remote engine immobilization takes this to a new level. With this you can turn off the engine remotely. A kill switch.

Some OnStar vehicles have this. The police can call OnStar and have them disable a stolen vehicle at will. A very powerful way of catching car thieves. There are aftermarket versions of this as well.

Unfortunately it comes with a bit of extra. Who is authorized to kill your car? Will all police cars come with devices so they can kill the engine of any car they want? Will it become standard operating procedure for a cop to kill the engine of any car he stops?

Will Mayor Pete be able to kill any car that is drives to much in a given period of time?

Will M.A.D.D. get a law passed that immobilises your engine anytime you stop at a place that serves alcohol? And then you are required to blow to get your car to start again?

Will your voter registration be linked to your car. If there is “right wing extremest” in the area do all cars belonging to the wrong sorts of people get disabled?

In the Dresden Files novels, the main character drives a VW Bug. He drives it because as a wizard the more technically advanced something is, they more likely it is to break when he is near. The Bug has no electronics. It is dirt simple.

There might be a new call for “dumb” cars.

Kia and Hyundai drivers might want to take extra precautions to deter car thieves

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By awa

7 thoughts on “Engine Immobilisers, Good? Bad?”
  1. Ask residents of colorado how they like “smart” thermostats when they couldn’t adjust them during the last heat wave. Technogizmo crap is great until its misused or decides to not work.. heres an idea- dont go where car thieves are and lock yer shiite up.. but then Americans are getting stupider by the second …

  2. My answer will depend on whether the car’s operating system is connected (or can connect) to an external network. If no, I have less problems with the technology.
    A problem with simpler cars, like the old Bugs, is they couldn’t be made new today – they would not pass emissions requirements. (Or probably safety, but that’s likely more fixable.) That onboard computer and additional complexity is part of what let cars meet the requirements.

  3. “Who is authorized to kill your car?”
    Forget authorized; who has the ability? I gorr-an-tee that, whatever the technology is, it will get loose. If the system uses a point-and-zap local signal, black-market zappers will appear almost immediately. If it uses some sort of satcomm-and-VIN scheme, the keys will be leaked. Criminals and pranksters will have a field day.
    Hey, how about immobilizing every car on Highway 101 in Silicon Valley during rush hour?

    Local, owner-controlled immobilizers, now… I’m thinking of adding one to my tractor as an anti-theft feature – tractors notoriously don’t use unique keys, so an interlock that checks for my phone being within Bluetooth range could be a good addition.

  4. As an anti-theft device, sure. I am good with that.
    Allowing a government agency the ability to control it without the owner’s knowledge or consent, absolutely not.
    Give me a remote engine kill switch that requires the owner, or a designated representative to approve the action, via a PIN/Password, or whatever, and fine. But, give me a way to ensure there is NO backdoor to that system. And… we are back to my second point above… absolutely not.
    There is a fundamental human right to movement without unreasonable restrictions. No, you should not be allowed to enter private property without permission of the landowner, nor should you be allowed to enter a sovereign country without a visa. But, you should not have to ask the government’s permission to travel from your residence to your place of business, or to recreate in a remote area.
    This has way too much potential to destroy that right.

  5. “As an anti-theft device, sure. I am good with that.” As are most people, and that’s how it will be sold. However, it won’t be long until it will be advertised as a way to stop “High-Speed-Chases.” This give the government the remote ability to shutdown your car. Next will be “You’ve exceeded your weekly allocation of miles driven,your car has been disabled until your allocation balance is positive.” Of course by paying a climate equity tax, you can obtain a higher mileage allocation.

  6. Didn’t Tesla recently shut down a guys car until he paid Tesla many thousands of dollars? This technology is already here and on the loose, just not as widespread as it soon will be.

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