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RAC issues warning over catalytic converter thefts

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

Criminals have been targeting cars parked during lockdown to fuel the illegal trade of precious metals, according to the RAC and insurer Ageas.

Ageas says it has seen a marked rise in theft of catalytic converters since the start of the first lockdown just over a year ago, with this type of crime now accounting for three-in-10 of all theft claims reported.

Before the lockdown catalytic converter theft only accounted for around one-in-five, the company’s data shows.

Most thefts have happened while cars have been parked at home, either on the driveway or the road, although in a very small number of cases thieves were brazen enough to steal them in supermarket car parks while the driver was shopping.

Quick backgrounder: Catalytic converters form part of a car’s exhaust system. They contain a honeycomb coated with precious metals such as platinum, palladium and rhodium which help to reduce and filter harmful gases from the vehicles’ exhaust systems. 

But criminals steal catalytic converters so they can sell them on and make money from the precious metals inside them. 

When global values of these metals go up it usually leads to a spate of thefts. Prices of rhodium hit a record highs earlier this year, up more than 200 per cent since March 2020.

Robin Challand, Claims Director at Ageas, said: “While catalytic converters are just one component of a car, their theft can often result in a driver’s car being written off which is the last thing we want for our customers. We hope that by shining a spotlight on this type of crime, we can arm motorists with the information they need to protect their vehicles.”

RAC Insurance spokesman Simon Williams said: “Drivers are often oblivious of their vehicle’s catalytic converter being stolen. Our patrols are often called to attend cars that have suddenly become excessively noisy. On investigation it’s very often the case that the car’s catalytic converter has been stolen.

“We’d strongly recommend motorists get in the habit of taking extra precautions to guard against this type of crime. Generally-speaking, most car crime takes place at night, so it makes sense to park a vehicle in a well-lit and residential location, or ideally in a garage if available. When away from home, look for car parks that have security patrols and are covered by CCTV. It’s also a good idea to look for the ParkMark logo at car parks as this shows they have met certain security standards.

“But unfortunately, as Ageas’ data shows, even taking sensible precautions may not necessarily make you immune to this type of crime. For this reason, having a strong, comprehensive insurance policy is a vital in case the worst happens.”

Insurers warn over automated vehicle cyber security

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) has urged the motor industry to make sure vehicles have a sufficient level of security to guard against cyber attacks.

Setting out suggested criteria for keeping automation safe, initially on motorways, the Association of British Insurers says automated driving systems “must be able to detect and minimise the consequences of cyber intrusions and data security breaches”.

This is to protect against the risk of hackers using connected services to spread viruses or to remotely access a vehicle’s controls with potentially disastrous results. This  means that strong cyber security could soon be more important for vehicles than their physical crime prevention features such as locks and immobilisers.

The recommendation, made at an ABI event on automated vehicles, is one of ten that insurers and research body Thatcham Research hope will be made part of a set of regulations all vehicles would have to meet before being allowed to operate in fully autonomous mode on the UK’s roads. 

Other points include the importance of vehicle data being available in the event of an accident and that vehicles must be able to handle emergency situations without driver intervention.

A consultation to work through the technical details of all the recommendations is now getting under way, which will then be passed on to relevant national and international regulators.

James Dalton, Director of General Insurance Policy at the ABI, said: “Insurers are major supporters of autonomous vehicles, which have the potential to dramatically improve road safety as well as transform mobility for thousands. However it is important that the transition from increasingly sophisticated driver assistance systems, already operating in modern cars, to fully autonomous vehicles is carefully handled to avoid unnecessary problems.

“In our increasingly connected world, cyber security is a crucial issue for everything from televisions to fitness trackers. Our cars are no different. If people are to put their trust in a vehicle to get them safely from A to B, building in appropriate cyber security is essential and should be a compulsory requirement before any car is allowed to effectively drive itself. It’s easy to imagine that a vehicle’s cyber security systems will soon be its most important crime prevention feature, ensuring the cars of the future are protected from data thefts and other malicious attacks.”