An Australian company is offering a low-tech solution to the threat of high-tech thieves breaking through sophisticated electronic vehicle-security systems.
The availability of cheap electronic devices on the Internet, such as immobilizer modules, GSM jammers, wireless detectors and encryption duplicate key programmers continue to expose serious security issues for vehicle owners, manufacturers and law-enforcement agencies.
In response, Bob Lycoudis, a retired Australian police officer with long experience in investigating car thefts, created Cop-Lock, a mechanical locking device that attaches to the brake or clutch pedal. He spent years achieving his objective of a user-friendly manual anti-theft device.
Australian distributor GFG Enterprises says the made-in-China device has a ribbed boot to fit multiple vehicles and a highly drill-resistant keylock.
It is similar in weight and size – 3.5 lbs. (1.6 kg) and 23 x 3 x 4.5 ins. (58.4 x 7.6 X 11.4 cm) – to traditional steering wheel locks, but Lycoudis says while steering-wheel locks can be cut free, his design can’t.
The steel boot fits over and surrounds the brake or clutch pedal and secures the pedal arm. A self-locking shaft is engaged to the floor of the vehicle securing the boot and stopping the pedal from being depressed.
As a result, the effective use of the brakes or transmission is stopped. In some vehicles, the engine can’t be started unless the brake or clutch pedal is depressed.
It is designed to fit both manual and automatic vehicles.
The downside is it does not work on all vehicles.
The company says it is incompatible with the Volkswagen Polo, Golf, Jetta, Passat, Eos, Caddy, Touareg, and Amarok; all Audi models; Nissan X-Trail to ʼ16; Mitsubishi Challenger; Kia ʼ16 Sportage; GM Holden Cruze (automatic); Ford Falcon, Territory, BA Falcon (automatics from ʼ02), Transit; and Hyundai Genesis.
GFG director Craig McArthur says the A$79.95 ($63.32) device mainly is being sold in Australia, but locks have been shipped to the U.S., U.K., South America, Singapore and Italy.
Since its full launch earlier this year, about 1,200 Cop-Locks have been sold.
“To the best of our knowledge, there have not been any vehicles stolen with the Cop-Lock fitted,” he says.
McArthur says relatively cheap electronic devices available on the internet often come with tutorials and provide advice on reprogramming a key using radio transmitters designed to trick the car into thinking the owner’s key is present.
On-board computers in the vehicle are being accessed via the diagnostic port which is connected to the electronic control unit, thus enabling a thief to reprogram a blank key and drive away.
“While this is the gloomy side, many motorists are successfully turning once again to manual locking devices for additional security,” McArthur says.