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Cybersecurity Makes Life Difficult for Car Thieves

From new anti-theft protection to comfort and security applications: Volkswagen Group and NXP Semiconductors present future utilization areas for Ultra-Wideband technology (UWB).

What GPS and Google Maps are for the outdoor environment, Ultra-Wideband (UWB) is for both outside and inside: a very precise localization and distance measurement. In addition, this Ultra-Wideband technology offers the highest level of cyber security. The Volkswagen brand and the world’s largest supplier and chip manufacturer to the automotive industry, NXP (30,000 employees worldwide), are developing future areas of deployment for this networking technology within the automotive industry.

A concept car, based on the Volkswagen Arteon1, demonstrates the potential of UWB, in terms of more safety and comfort for the vehicle’s occupants. A vehicle that doesn’t appear unusual at first glance – if it weren’t for the striking stickers and logos on the side. But this car has a lot to offer: Maik Rohde, Body Computer & Access Systems at Volkswagen, and Lars Reger, Chief Technology Officer at NXP Semiconductors, have installed the latest networked features into the Arteon. This car also proves how closely both partners work together in research and development. Volkswagen and NXP have a common goal: to make the most of UWB’s unique capabilities.

  • This is how UWB’s theft protection works:

    This is how UWB works exactly: The chips integrated in fixed places in the car (for example, on all four doors and the trunk) communicate with each other and with moving chips, for example on the driver’s or passenger’s car key. The chips of all six anchor points constantly transmit signals back and forth, “talking” to each other.

    The exact and three-dimensional position of the rightful car owner is determined from the number of milliseconds measured when these signals are sent and received – the so-called “Time-of-Flight”. A previous technique of intercepting the radio signal, for the purpose of vehicle theft, is no longer possible.

    With conventional keyless systems, only the signal strength of the key is measured: The larger it is, the closer the user is to their vehicle. This signal could be relayed and used by unauthorized persons.

    UWB now enables a real centimeter-precise and, above all, tamper-proof positioning control of the user – at any time and at the speed of light. At the same time, this is a real plausibility check that the rightful driver or passenger is approaching the vehicle. The car can also unlock individual doors to suit the position from which the driver approaches the car.

And these abilities are immense: UWB serves the very precise localization and distance determination in and around the vehicle. UWB thus enables numerous exciting new applications.

In the automotive sector, for example, the detection of living creatures in the vehicle, automated valet parking (“service parking”), automatic activation of the trailer coupling or effortless access to parking spaces and their automatic payment as they pass through are all new applications. The Volkswagen UWB car key uses high-precision sensor technology and artificial intelligence to learn the movement patterns and habits of users.

Many industries such as car manufacturers, telecommunication providers or industry 4.0 have long waited for a secure, highly accurate technology that allows precise localization outdoors and in buildings. UWB meets these requirements and represents a significant improvement over existing wireless technologies such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS. The ability to capture accurate information such as the position and movement of the UWB anchor or to process the distance to other devices with unprecedented accuracy of just a few centimeters in real time opens up a wide range of new and exciting opportunities.


“The first UWB application that we are bringing into series production this year is a further decisive step forward in terms of anti-theft protection”

Maik Rohde Head of Body Electronics and Car Access Systems at Volkswagen
UWB checks the correct installation of baby seats and the appropriate activation and deactivation of airbags
Concept vehicle

In concrete terms: Volkswagen will soon become the first volume manufacturer to integrate UWB into its new vehicle generations. Lars Reger, Chief Technology Officer NXP: “We see huge potential in UWB. We are working on further developing the technology, standardizing it and defining many more applications.”

Future developments that can make driving easier for people in all situations, for example by ...

... child seat recognition: UWB recognizes the correct positioning of a child seat, to the centimeter exactly – no matter where, within the car it is located. In this way, UWB ensures correct installation. This often saves lives. If the child seat is mounted on the front passenger seat, UWB automatically disengages the airbag.

The car recognizes the trailer and automatically extends the trailer coupling. Later, the hitch and trailer will connect automatically
Concept vehicle

… a clever trailer coupling: The vehicle automatically detects with UWB chips when a trailer approaches the rear. In this case, the car automatically extends the hitch from the rear, making it available for coupling to the trailer, so to speak. This is not the final chapter: later, the vehicle and trailer recognize their exact positions on both sides and couple independently.

Volkswagen and NXP are currently working on many other UWB applications.

Fuel consumption

1 Concept vehicle

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Ultra-Wideband (UWB)

Key fobs enabled with UWB get “Access Denied” and “Access Granted” right every time. Volkswagen and NXP preview a concept car that shows how UWB technology can protect against car theft via relay attacks – and boost convenience and safety in the car. With UWB, the system precisely measures the travel time of the signal between the key and car for unprecedented localization accuracy – a few centimeters in real-time. This accuracy, combined with low power consumption, enables a great number of use cases for future cars: preventing theft, recognizing users by their gestures, verifying the child seat positioning and even automating the trailer hitch. Find out the ultrawide possibilities of Ultra-Wideband technology at http://www.nxp.com/uwb.

VW with NXP Show the Power of UWB for Future Cars

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