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Fingerprints – The answer to ending car theft in South Africa

South African startup Eagle Eye Defence (EED) seeks to put an end to rampant car theft in the country by beefing up biometric security in everyday vehicles.

The company has developed a new system with which normal motorists will be able to scan their fingerprints to authenticate themselves as the owner or an authorised user of a car before it will start.

While there are high-end autos that already have this ability, such as the Mercedes-Benz EQS, EED’s system aims to bring the option of having biometric verification to any ride on the road.

Biometrics are safer than a normal immobiliser as they will exclusively work with pre-approved persons, as opposed to a mechanical or software-based killswitch that usually only requires knowledge of where it is before it can be overridden.

“It gives you the ultimate protection that we as everyday consumers are looking for,” said EED co-founder Iviwe Mosana in an interview on Cape Talk.

The startup is also in the process of developing more forms of biometrics including facial recognition and eye scans.

“Biometric access is not really a luxury, but more of a necessity. In the current day that we live in, we have seen that hijacks have increased from about 38 vehicles daily, to around 60 vehicles,” said Mosana.

Discretion is advised

Mosana said any motorists can bring their vehicle to EED and the company will install its system and place the fingerprint sensor in a discrete location only known to the owner.

“We are trying to address a bigger problem which needs as much discretion as possible, so we would ideally like to position the device in such a manner that by the time someone tries to locate it, we have already arrived,” he said.

If any unauthorised person – be they a criminal or disobedient teenager – manages to start the vehicle, the biometric system will alert the owner through an app on their smartphone and allow them to cut the engine from up to 100 metres away.

EED intends to launch its product around May/June 2024 with prices ranging from R400 to R580 per month, Mosana told News24.

Installation will be handled by accredited service providers and is expected to take approximately two and a half hours.

According to the founder, the biometric system has received provisional approval from the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa and is in the final phase of testing, but the startup has already conducted successful tests with customers.

“Although it’s still awaiting final approval, from a function perspective, the device works. We’ve had some customers come to our lab to test out the product and we can safely say that the device definitely works,” said Mosana.

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