Semiconductors Hold the Key to Stopping Car Thefts

Thursday, Aug 14, 2014, 11:00am

by Dan Rosso, Vice President, Communications

For car thieves, business is a lot slower these days than it was a couple decades ago. In New York City, for example, auto thefts have decreased by 96 percent since 1990, and steep drops have been seen across the country.

So what’s stopping car thieves? The main deterrent is not an elaborate alarm system or bulky steering wheel lock, but rather a device called an engine immobilizer, powered by a tiny microchip that could fit on the tip of your finger.

Engine immobilizers ensure that cars can only be started by an authentic ignition key containing a semiconductor that is uniquely programmed to match the car. This technology, which became widely used by automakers in the late 1990s and early 2000s, has been so effective in thwarting thieves that most cars stolen today are older cars that predate engine immobilizers. For example, 84 percent of Honda Accords that were stolen in the U.S. last year were made before 1998, the year that Honda started selling Accords with immobilizers.

Semiconductors not only protect our cars from thieves, they also protect us from car accidents. The latest semiconductor-enabled auto safety technologies have made driving safer than it’s ever been. And earlier this year, we discussed how vehicle communication technology holds the potential to save even more lives in the future – a reminder that the full potential of semiconductor technology still lies ahead.