Research Team Develops Anti-Vehicle Theft Device Prototype

July 31, 2023
A research team with the University of Michigan has developed an anti-theft device that utilizes a keypad and voltage fluctuations to authenticate drivers.

As the technology in vehicles becomes more complex, it also creates more vulnerabilities for theft. A research team with the University of Michigan has attempted to create a solution for this by developing a prototype of an anti-theft device to be installed in vehicles.

The device is called Battery Sleuth and is built to utilize a vehicle’s voltage fluctuations to verify a driver. 

The device plugs into the vehicle’s auxiliary power outlet, which powers a keypad device that drivers will use to authenticate themselves. Until the correct code is entered into the keypad, the device blocks the battery from emitting enough power for the starter, blocking the vehicle from being able to start up. 

When the code is entered, the device will send a series of voltage fluctuations to the car’s electrical system–what the team refers to as a kind of “voltage fingerprint.” When the receiver picks up this communication, the vehicle is then allowed to fully start.

In a July 2022 field test study performed on eight vehicles, the device was found to be more than 99.9% effective at detecting theft without interfering with the vehicle’s normal operations. 

The research team plans to expand their studies with the prototype, such as enabling control entry to make applications like vehicle entry compatible.