EL SEGUNDO, CA --- Advances in telematics are making car theft a riskier business -- and thankfully, the technology figures to thwart even more thieves in the near future.
Imagine you're attending a business meeting and you receive an e-mail on your iPhone. The subject line: "Car Theft Alert." The text of the e-mail warns you that there has been an attempt to break into your Toyota Land Cruiser, activating the vehicle's alarm.
Seconds later, another e-mail arrives, informing you that your Land Cruiser's engine has been ignited. You tap your finger on an icon on your iPhone screen, and live video of the interior of your vehicle appears, showing a stranger at the wheel. Another icon tap brings up a map, presenting the progress of your car as it leaves the company parking lot and proceeds down the road.
You excuse yourself from the meeting, call 911 and inform the police operator of the location of your stolen Land Cruiser. A third tap of your finger on an icon dubbed "Immobilize Vehicle" sends a message to a Toyota control center to deactivate the Land Cruiser's engine. You check the video again and watch as the clearly unhappy thief first reacts with confusion as the vehicle coasts to a stop, and then puts his hands on the top of his head and exits your Land Cruiser to be arrested.
"While this may sound like science fiction, for Toyota, these features are already a reality in Japan with its G-Security system, part of the company's G-Link, G-Book mX Pro, and G-Book Alpha Pro telematics systems that provide a range of car control and safety services via remote control from a mobile phone or PC," said Hitomi Larson, an analyst covering automotive electronics at iSuppli Corp. "Furthermore, other OEMs are getting into the game, offering competitive solutions. Nissan, for example, will be the next automaker to introduce a mobile device service to the Japanese market, debuting sometime in 2010. Likewise, there are other mobile device connectivity solutions that will come into the U.S. and global markets in 2010 and 2011."
Toyota was the first OEM to offer an in-vehicle mobile device connectivity and security solution in Japan. Other OEMs, such as Subaru and Mazda, have adopted Toyota's G-Book Alpha Pro, which also employs the G-Security application. Beyond the capabilities already mentioned, G-Security gives users remote control via a PC or mobile phone to features including door locks, power windows and hazard lamps.
"While it seems futuristic, mobile device in-vehicle connectivity interface is nothing new, with Japanese OEMs accustomed to utilizing mobile phones for off-board service content delivery into cars," Larson said. "However, several automotive OEMs now are trying to further expand the usage of mobile phones as a direct communication channel to send and obtain vehicle-centric information along with mobile applications."