Hyundai And Kia Are Rolling Out A New Software Upgrade To Prevent Car Theft


Hyundai and Kia are offering a new free software patch to owners of 8.3 million vehicles that are so easy to steal that some insurance companies refuse to offer coverage for them in certain markets. This is a theft problem that has dragged on for more than two years, led to class action lawsuits and plagued law enforcement and car owners throughout the United States.

The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration said Tuesday the automakers have developed theft deterrent software for more than 8 million of its vehicles that lack an immobilizer system, which has made them a target of thieves across the country. The software will be provided free of charge to vehicle owners.

The 2015-2019 Hyundai and Kia models are vehicles with turn-key ignitions — as opposed to push-button start — are roughly twice as likely to be stolen as other vehicles of a similar age. The reason: Many of these vehicles lack some of the basic auto theft prevention technology included in most other vehicles, even in those years, according to the Highway Loss Data Institute.

The models in question don’t have electronic immobilizers, which rely on a computer chip in the car and another in the key that communicate to confirm that the key belongs with that vehicle. Without the right key, an immobilizer should do just that — stop the car from moving.

These models became the subject of a social media trend in which thieves filmed themselves and others stealing Hyundai and Kia vehicles and took them on joyrides. Thefts of these vehicles resulted in at least 14 crashes and eight deaths, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.  

The challenge encouraged teenagers in the U.S. to hot wire such cars of these brands that lacked an engine immobilizer. This electronic security device prevents a vehicle from starting unless the correct key or fob is used.

The patch will be installed on vulnerable models, with software that requires an actual key in the ignition to turn the vehicle on. The software will also block the car from being started after the doors have been locked using the key fob remote control. The vehicle will need to be unlocked before it can be started. The software also extends the length of the alarm sound from 30 seconds to a full minute. Hyundai dealers will also affix window stickers stating that the vehicle has anti-theft software installed.

The updates will be carried out at its dealership and are said to require less than an hour. However, the company has clarified that not all models will be compatible with the upgrade offered, specifically some 2011-2022 model-year vehicles without engine immobilizers cannot accommodate the software upgrade.


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