‘Knight Rider-style’ smartphone app lets you start your car remotely

The Viper SmartStart application was unveiled at the Dubai International Motor Show and works by connecting the car wirelessly to an application on your phone.

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DUBAI // Motorists can download a Knight Rider-style application that allows them to start their car’s engine and air conditioning, and unlock its doors with their smartphones.

The Viper SmartStart application was unveiled yesterday at the car show. It works by connecting the car wirelessly to an app on the phone.

“It’s just like Knight Rider,” said promoter Shakiba Ansari. “You will have anytime access to your car from anywhere in the world. As long as you have an internet connection, you will have complete control.

“If you want to go out, you can just switch on the car’s air conditioning to cool it down 10 minutes before you leave the house. If you lock your key inside your car, you can just use the app to open your door.”

Ms Ansari said you could start the engine but the vehicle would not move until you put the key in the ignition.

However, David Michaux, director of the Dubai security company Whispering Bell, said people should be cautious when using remote services over the internet.

“It has a lot of ingenious and useful features,” Mr Michaux said. “It’s just that, with some of the features you would have thought better security would have been embedded into it when you put such functionality around it.”

When Viper SmartStart was launched two years ago bloggers posted tutorials online showing how to hack the system using a laptop.

One video showed a hacker turning on a car’s engine just by pasting a line of code into the URL bar of a web browser.

“If you have access to this it looks like you can potentially steal the car,” said Mr Michaux.

But he said that loophole could have been fixed in the two years since the video was made.

Car thieves are increasingly turning to high technology to steal luxury vehicles.

Last year there was a spate of robberies in Europe where criminals gained access to the onboard diagnostics of some BMWs through a USB plug behind the tail light, and stole the vehicles.

Mr Michaux said car makers were becoming more rigorous in their efforts to counter hackers, but care needed to be taken when modifying a car, especially with wireless connections.

“When it comes to making after-market modifications you can’t depend so much on the security because they might not have gone through the same vigorous testing as the car manufacturer would have put them through,” he said.