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A Brief History of Car Security Systems

Since the invention of the automobile, they’ve been prized possessions and invaluable assets. As cars became more accessible and less of a luxury item, people began to leave them unoccupied and vulnerable to thieves. Thus, the need to keep them safe and theft-proof increased.

The first recorded car theft took place in Paris, France, 1896, when a mechanic stole a Peugot from Baron de Zuylen, founder of the Automobile Club of France. While the vehicle was eventually recovered and the thief caught, it set forth a series of innovations that would see our cars become more theft-proof.

Removable Steering Wheel

A removable steering wheel is cited as the first anti-theft technology in cars, developed by Leach Automobile in 1900. The idea was that the driver would remove the steering wheel after driving and carry it with them to deter thieves.


It seems like a no-brainer to secure cars using locks. However, most early cars didn’t even have doors, which wouldn’t be standard until the early 1920s. By then, companies started to add locks to their cars. However, early car locks were easy to pick and it wouldn’t be until the 1970s when more sophisticated locks were introduced.

(Car Security in the 1970's | Car Security | 'Drive In' | 1978, via ThamesTV)

Power locks were first introduced in 1914 on luxury cars built by Scripps-Booth. However, it took a few decades for power locks to become popular, when Packard introduced them as an option in 1956.

Keyless entry was first introduced by Ford in 1980 on select models. To unlock the car, the driver would have to punch in a 5-digit code on a keypad located above the driver’s side door. Nissan would introduce a similar system in 1984. The first remote entry using a handheld transmitter was developed by Renault in 1982 for the Renault Fuego.


Car alarms can be dated back to 1913 with a snippet of newspaper claiming that an unnamed Denver prisoner invented an alarm that would trigger when someone tried to hand crank the engine. Three years later, in 1916, the magazine Popular Science Monthly reported an inventor developing a wireless alarm system which would make a buzzer vibrate when their car’s ignition was tampered with.

(The Automatic Burglar Alarm for Automobiles, via Google Patents. See the original patent here)

The first mass-produced after-market car alarm was patented in 1954 by Victor Helman. The device would sit in the car’s glovebox and have wires running to the hood, trunk and doors all connected to a switch. If any part of the car was opened without disabling the master switch, located somewhere on the outside of the car, the alarm would be triggered.

OEM car alarms that came from the factory started in the early 1970s. One of the first major manufacturers to install car alarms was Chrysler. Chrysler’s alarm worked by placing various sensors were around the car which could detect an unauthorised entry or start up. The car would let off a siren and flash its lights and Chrysler even installed a panic button on the dashboard that locked all door instantly. The only way to disable it was with the car key. This alarm was offered in all full-sized vehicles. General Motors also offered a factory car alarm for all Corvettes built after 1972. However, early car alarms were easily disabled and to this day it their effectiveness is questioned.


The earliest patent for an immobiliser dates back to 1918 and was invented by St. George Evans and Edward N. Birkenbeuel. The rather elaborate device was an electric immobiliser-alarm combination that had a 3x3 switch panel that can only be turned by a specially built key. This was then connected to the car’s battery, horn and ignition.

(The Automobile Theft Preventer, via Google Patents. See the original patent here).

When the driver left their car, they would turn a few of the switches to a different position so that whenever someone tried to start the engine, the device would divert electricity to the horn rather than the ignition.

Modern immobilisers are automatic and don’t require the driver to set them. Instead, they operate by disabling the engine unless the corresponding key or fob is present. In the UK, Germany, Finland, Australia and Canada, immobilisers are mandatory in every new vehicle and it is estimated that immobilisers have reduced car theft by 40 percent.

Tracking Devices

The most recent development in anti-car theft technology is are tracking devices. Ever since GPS went public, personal trackers and vehicle trackers have been an invaluable asset for the businesses and regular people. At Black Knight, we specialise in making simple, robust GPS trackers compatible with just about any vehicle. Out trackers and corresponding app are designed for ease of use and

While technology has allowed manufacturers to make cars more theft-proof, regardless of how secure you think your car is, it is imperative that you stay vigilant and take every precaution to protect it from theft. A GPS tracker is the only device that can give you your car’s location after it has been stolen. Contact Black Knight today to order your own GPS tracking device.

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