back to article Satanic car key traps 12 motorists in car park of horror

Stranded motorists in Kent were forced to turn to Ofcom after a rogue car's central locking system took possession of other vehicles in the same Gravesend car park. More than 12 cars at the Parrock Street car park in the comfortable yet earthy Medway town decided not to open or start on Tuesday, the Beeb reports. Apparently …

COMMENTS

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  1. Ted Treen
    Happy

    It's taxi time.....

    I suppose this Satanic car wouldn't be a Lamborghini Diabolo....

    I've already got my coat.

    Taxi for Ted...

  2. Luke
    Black Helicopters

    ROTM

    Surely this should be a ROTM article... we are in your cars, locking your doors, all your car are belong to us!

  3. Rob
    Alert

    The uprising is building...

    ... in force, the cars have started to show their allegience.

    (Icon for RoTM, please)

  4. Grant

    Sounds like a great soft terriost attack

    For those kinder gentler terrorists just make a few thousand of these (at what $5 a piece) and scatter them around town. I wonder what happens to cars that aren't parked?

    Gotta love the motter industries desire to save a pound here and there.

  5. Risky
    Black Helicopters

    Matches hat

    Where can I get a tin-foil lined car cover. Will it make me invisible to the black helicopters when parked?

  6. Nick Stallman
    Happy

    Good way to make a quick buck

    The owner of the malfunctioning key could make some easy money via eBay.

    I'm sure many people would be interested in a device which effectively disables cars. :)

    Hook up a RF amplifier and get a decent antenna for mass mayhem.

  7. Dan
    Gates Horns

    Just lulling us !!

    They are just lulling us in to a false sense of security. First its a "faulty" car transmitter, then its intermittent computer glitches.

    Next thing we know its nukes in the air, and Skynet terminators everywhere rounding us up and putting us in to camps for our own security !!

  8. breakfast
    Coat

    Bananas

    The car in question is rumoured to be an old-style white VW Beetle with blue and red racing stripes, starting-line number "53" and an anarchic sense of humour.

  9. Dan

    imagine

    the offline processing power of modern cars. all linked by bluetooth. discuss.

  10. Andrew Kay

    What Car?

    What type of vehicle was responsible for the blocking? I only ask as I have had similar problems when parking in a certain street..

  11. Rich Harding
    Stop

    Ah, yes...

    ...and don't park your RF-alarmed motorcycle (and possibly car, for all I know) at Schiphol unless you know the override code.

    DAMHIKIJDOK?

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Unhappy

    Intermittently ... ?

    An intermittent signal would, surely, be only of minor inconvenience because the owners of the 12 affected cars would surely try more than once, and statistically they are unlikely to clash with the rogue intermittent more than a couple of times.

    I think somehow OfCom has a very strange definition of intermittent -- like transmitting for 19.8 seconds in every 20.

    And what, precisely, was it transmitting? Was it deliberate or accidental? Don't we need to know whether there are particular devices that might inadvertantly repeat this in other car parks?

  13. tardigrade
    Black Helicopters

    ROTM?

    Shouldn't this article be flagged ROTM? It's clearly the next stage in the robot armies master plan to enslave the human race.

    My car locked me in yesterday, luckily my key unlocked it this time, before I died. This is clearly a trial run one day we will all be locked into our cars and automatically driven into the sea.

    You've been warned.

  14. Adam Starkey

    TLA

    Interestingly there was no mention of the lizard army, despite this being a clear skirmish in the gathering storm.

    Of course, as anyone who has been reading amanfromMars' posts carefully knows, El Register has already fallen to the invading forces, so it's no surprise they're blocking the awful truth.

  15. Martin Benson

    Why....

    ...isn't this a RoTM article?

    It's nothing to do with a malfunction - it was a deliberate attempt by that car to lock people into their cars, where they would never escape....MWAA-HAA-HAA-HAA!

  16. Hein Kruger
    Black Helicopters

    Cover up

    Bah! Do they really expect us to believe that? I'll bet that Ofcom was called in to blame it all on some innocent family car, in an effort to cover up what's really going on. They were obviously testing out some new top-secret kit for getting cars to spy on their owners.

    Unfortunately for them (very fortunate for us) there was some glitch that caused the wireless network they set up for the cars to report on their owners' activities, to interfere with the locking mechanisms.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    I would love to know exactly what caused this

    I wonder how easy it would be to replicate something like this - it could be fun to set it up outside the local plod station...

    ... Black helicopters are landing as we speak...

  18. CharleyBoy
    Coat

    You really believe OFCOM!?

    As if OFCOM could actually be of some use. Come on. It is clear that they are guessing. The car owners are simply being "fobbed" off with a rubbish answer.

    ROTM - obviously.

  19. Ross Ryles
    Boffin

    Stranded?

    Why were the owners stranded? My car has remote central locking and an electronic immobiliser, but I can still use the good old fashioned mechanical lock to gain entry and the immobiliser communicates using contact with the key.

    If these people couldn't get into there cars and drive away because of some radio jamming then what are they going to do when the battery runs out on their fob? (or is it rf powered?)

  20. Chris Hill
    Black Helicopters

    fobbed Ofcom

    Don't most modern car remotes work on a rolling frequency system? I'm a little doubtful that a small family car would have the ability to broadcast a jamming signal including the 12 randomly selected frequencies of the victims cars.

    It also seems doubtful that the same little family car would be able to broadcast and disable the imobiliser signal from the victims car keys, preventing the cars from starting...

    That said I'd love to hear from someone who actually knows something about the tech behind these things to explain if its fesable or not.

  21. Chris

    RTFM...

    Probability that any of the vehicles affected were genuinely inaccessible - zero, or some really close approximation to it.

    Probalility that the owners had failed to so much as take the user manual out of its wallet, let alone bother to read even a single page of it like, ooh, I dunno, perhaps the bit that explains exactly what to do when the remote fob stops working - absofragginlutely huge...

    Maybe, just maybe, there's a manufacturer out there so supremely stupid that they'd build a car incapable of being unlocked by any other means if the remote fob stopped working, but I'd suggest it's far (and by far, I don't just mean down to the shops type far, I mean to the edge of the universe type far) more likely that the manufacturers of all the cars involved had in fact provided an emergency override specifically for scenarios such as this. However, given that some drivers are barely able to find the fuel filler cap (or the switch to turn off their fog lights), I have no difficulty in believing that a whole bunch of them were flummoxed by an unlocking procedure more complicated than pressing a button.

  22. Acme Fixer
    Happy

    Ahhh...

    The wonders of technology.

    Foolproof technology... just found a bigger fool.

    Wait until you have to repair your Merc Benz key. I've heard it costs $600!!!

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What's cooking at El Reg?

    First someone called Austin is writing Lucy stories. Then someone called Joe is writing Lester pieces. And Lewis is doing Lester sometimes not always, and not yet Lucy, tho that might change tomorrow...? Have the Simon Legrees at Vulture Central conjured up Maxwell's Demon, stuck it in a little hot room (padded against synchrotron radiation) with a keyboard and sauce, and said "Go, Brother, Go"?

    Or is someone lunching at the wrong watering hole?

  24. Chris
    Paris Hilton

    Re: Stranded

    [quote]If these people couldn't get into there cars and drive away because of some radio jamming then what are they going to do when the battery runs out on their fob?[/quote]

    I heard of it happenning. A blonde had the battery go dead on her fob, and she was distraught. She thought she might find a replacement at the convenience store awaaaay over there, but it was a long walk. A kindly stranger helped her out - by unlocking her door with the key...

  25. Raheim Sherbedgia

    Faulty Wireless

    I can't believe they cited a "faulty broadband" as a potential cause for the problem. The guys in the UK really are scared of wireless, that's so funny considering I bet they reported their initial findings via mobile phone.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    Re: Stranded?

    A friend of mine has a vauxhal corsa, r reg.

    The battery ran out on his key fob, and the car

    refused to start, immobilizer wouldn't recognize just the key

    We had to rescue him with the other key.

  27. Kevin Wood

    Check your cylinder locks!

    Quite apart from the possibility that the vehicle or key fob battery could go flat, the frequencies on which these devices operate are shared with many other users, so it's far from guaranteed that an RF keyfob will get you into your car.

    My car keyfob operates on a frequency inside the 70cm amateur radio band, so it's perfectly feasible that a radio amateur could be sitting in the same car park talking legitimately on a mobile radio and inadvertently jamming every keyfob in the car park (incidentally, his license conditions would permit him to use up to 40,000 times as much transmit power as a keyfob).

    As to how a vehicle could transmit the jamming signal, I smell a rat here. Why would a transmitting device be built into the car itself? It only has to receive from the keyfob.

    Whilst these devices do have rolling codes to prevent the identity of any individual keyfob being "sniffed" from the airwaves they do not, as far as I am aware, change frequencies, so if the frequency on which the keyfob operates is being interfered with or in use by a legitimate user, you'd better have an old-fashioned key as a backup!

    The problem is, with lack of use, "old-fashioned" locks tend to be found siezed when you most need them! Give them a dab of grease ASAP!

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Intermittent ...

    ... in this case doesn't necessarily mean that the signal itself came and went frequently. I took it to mean that sometimes a continuous jamming signal would be emitted, while at other times it wouldn't. A fault can be intermittent without necessarily having no persistent symptoms.

    For example, my car has two problems that I would describe as intermittent; sometimes, after turning on the ignition, the solenoid is not enabled and the starter motor just spins freely. Until you switch the ignition off and then back on, it will continue to do so (as far as I know) indefinitely. Secondly, about one time in ten, just after the engine is started there is a whine from the electric fuel pump. This whine will continue until the engine is stopped. Most of the time, the pump will operate normally and with no unusual noise, but the noise doesn't come and go on those occasions when it decides to show itself.

    I think this is a kind of sweet RoTM example - my car is old enough to have too few automated systems to do more than moan, or be civilly disobedient, once in a while.

  29. Ian Wyper
    Thumb Down

    Gravesend in Medway?

    I just though I would point out that Gravesend is not one of the Medway towns.

  30. richard
    Stop

    Ahh But

    Landrovers are well known for being spontaneously dead in the morning if you park near certain radio sources (TV Transmitters, Radar, Door OPeners and Wi-Fi are among known colprits).

    Some alarms can 'talk back' to the fob to page the owner. Now given a LOT of the cheaper versions of these alarms come from China and bear no CE marks or indeed, any form of QA and you should have an answer.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Horns

    Fun with RF

    35W on 433.920 can cause havoc in car parks - one of my little pleasures in life is keying up and stopping people getting into their cars...

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    Gecko FM

    My gecko friend just told me that all it takes is one Radio Ham, a 70cm transceiver and a nice fat juicy power amplifier

    with collinear antenna and all the keys in the car park are useless.

    Apparently the Radio Frequency filtering in these keys is not up to lizard standards (if there is any filtering at all!).

    Gerry gecko also somewhat reluctantly then admitted that a gecko high power fart occurs precisely on this key 70cm frequency and this is probably what really stuffed them.

    ..Gerrys gone to get his coat...but this strange smell still lingers...aaaargh no.. my key! I'm stranded!

  33. SpitefulGOD
    Gates Halo

    Yeah

    Sounds like a test bed or proof of concept for hijackers to me, pesky crims.

  34. Richard

    @Gecko FM

    You don't need to go that far - a small 1W hand-held 70cm's radio will wipe out the whole car park of a motorway service area.

    You don't even have to transmit on the frequency that these things use (433.920MHz) I've just conducted a quick test and if I transmit 100mW at 434.600 close to my car, the remote won't work. Basically it's down to crap design of the receivers (selectivity) and a lack of legislation.

    434.600MHz is the input frequency for at least 15 Amateur repeaters in the UK. Repeaters take a signal broadcast on one frequency and rebroadcast on a different frequency to increase range.

  35. Matthew
    Black Helicopters

    since when to cars transmit?

    Don't they just recieve? I think i can hear the helecopters coming...

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Intermittent ...

    Apologies to other readers while we sort out Anonymous Coward's car problem...

    The two problems you describe are more likely due to a single mechanical issue with the starter. My recollection of simple car mechanics is that the starter motor spins a gear into the starter ring causing the starter motor to turn the engine over. Said device is known as Bendix Gear - try Googling it. If the Bendix gear fails to engage in the starter ring then then starter motor keeps spinning as it has nothing to work against. The converse effect is that the Bendix may not disengage after the engine has fired up - producing a whining noise from the starter motor (not the fuel pump) until the engine is turned off - best done quickly. If the Bendix does not disengage at all, there is a time honoured way to persuade it to return home.

  37. Brett Brennan
    Boffin

    General Motors vehicles do this in Yankee land

    I've seen this behavior in some GM vehicles here in the States: while fueling my MGA one day at the local petrol station I saw a Suburban jam a Chevrolet sedan until the Suburban drove away. Same thing happened briefly with my Saturn VUE at the grocers once, but I thought nothing of it and used the key to enter the vehicle and drive off.

    This *MIGHT* have something to do with the OnStar emergency system installed in many GM vehicles. I doubt that it's the OnStar transmitter itself, but it is possible that the interface to other systems - like remote door unlock and engine start - are operated by the remote fob wireless system, rather than by wired control. This would make sense, as it simplifies the installation and integration of the systems, and, as part of OnStar emergency over-rides, could operate on a "master" code that would affect all similar vehicles near by.

    On the other hand, the MGA has NO RF electronics...and possibly the positive earth Lucas electrical system is anti-matter to the Lizard Army? And the MGA still incorporates the little slot in the front engine pulley to allow using the jack handle to crank the engine by hand...

    Now if I can just mount me a Boeing Death Ray on the dash of the MG...

  38. tony trolle
    Pirate

    Rover 800's

    Rover 800's (and other rovers/landrovers) die on Shell forecourts that have mobile/phone tx's (transmitters) in the signs.

    BTW some of the older cars with On-star will soon be without it as the old phone system/bands which it uses are being deleted

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Pirate

    It wasn't the fob but the Car

    The radio receiver in the car was a super-regenerative design. Cheap as chips but prone to go into oscillation. When the detector stage started to oscillate itis blanked out the receivers in the other cars as they all operate on the same frequency 434.018Mhz. It was a constant oscillation, in short it was a fuaulty receiver that turned into quite an effective transmitter.

    Mystery solved.

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