No more keyless car thefts: Ultra‑wideband technology improves vehicle security

Secure ultra-wideband (UWB) solution of PKE-enabled applications© CSEM

What is relay theft?

Automakers are increasingly equipping their vehicles with passive keyless entry (PKE) systems that allow users to open and start their vehicles without taking their keys out of their pockets. While this is extremely convenient and appreciated by users, most of these systems work by measuring the strength of the radio signal between a vehicle and its key. Unfortunately, thieves equipped with readily available and inexpensive relay devices can intercept these signals and gain access to vehicles. This has led to an increase in thefts of keyless vehicles. Now, CSEM partner 3db Access has developed a secure, miniaturized ultra‑wideband (UWB) solution that can improve the security of PKE‑enabled applications.

How can UWB prevent relay theft?

In a relay attack, a relay device acquired by the thief intercepts and amplifies the radio signal from a PKE system, causing the system to believe the real key is near the vehicle. The PKE system then verifies this manipulated radio signal and grants access to the vehicle. With 3db Access' UWB solution, hacking these signals is a thing of the past. CSEM developed the analog front end of 3db Access' UWB transceiver integrated circuit (IC), which securely measures distances. UWB is based on time‑of‑flight (TOF) measurements. TOF makes it possible to accurately determine distances by measuring the time it takes for (billionth of a second) UWB radio pulses to travel from a vehicle to its key at the speed of light. This makes it virtually impossible to intercept the UWB signal or overlay it with a false radio pulse sent by a relay device to hack the system.

As a result, 3db Access' UWB solution is currently installed in millions of vehicles from some of the world's leading automotive manufacturers as it improves the security of their PKE systems without compromising the customer experience. Choosing the right innovation and implementation partner was critical to this success.

ADAC (Allgemeiner Deutscher Automobil-Club) document in German "Autos und Motorräder mit KeylessSchließsystem, die der ADAC illegal öffnen und wegfahren konnte"

UWB’s limitless potential

The potential of UWB is not limited to the automotive industry, but can also be used, for example, in the consumer market for real‑time location and tracking, or in Industry 4.0 for indoor localization. In smart factories, a highly accurate view of where objects are in real‑time is critical to maximizing efficiency and ultimately revenue. As 3db Access looks to expand the number of industries that can benefit from its secure UWB solution it will undoubtedly open up new business opportunities for the company.