In spite of what the western media and some foreign governments seems to suggest, Malaysia is really a safe place to live in. True, we have our share of crimes like anywhere else but overall, we do not have to walk the streets in fear and we do not have terrorists blowing up places.
However, when it comes to the safety of cars in Malaysia, things are rather different and depressing. Statistically, 50 vehicles were stolen daily nationwide in 2001 which is said to be very disturbing for the insurance industry that has to pay out millions in compensation. It’s not surprising then that many companies provide some sort of security system with new cars as it seems so easy to have your car stolen.
There are various security systems with varying prices and they range from simple steering locks to high-tech tracking devices which use satellites. Of course, it is also a matter of ‘bad luck’ that your car is the one that becomes a statistic and there seems to be nothing you can do to prevent a thief from taking it away. Nevertheless, even a simple steering lock can sometimes make a difference and deter the thief because it is a hassle to remove – and time is crucial to the thieves.
One of the new systems on the market is the Captor system which is claimed to have a 100% success rate in recovering stolen vehicles. Since being quietly introduced in the market six months ago, 22 cars that were stolen were recovered. On one occasion, it took just 20 minutes to be recovered .
The system was developed in South Africa and is being manufactured and distributed locally by Netstar Advanced Systems Sdn Bhd, a company in which Proton Edar (PE) has a 40% stake. According to Proton Edar CEO Datuk Maruan Mohd Said, PE’s involvement in Netstar complements the company’s effort to extend the best services to customers.
“We are proud and honoured to be part of the team to support our customers in protecting their car from loss,” he said during the official launch of the system today.
PE’s involvement also means that the installation of the Captor system can be given priority and preference by Proton as PE is a subsidiary of the national car company. The system can be installed at the factory, making for neater and more integrated installation. Customers can specify it with new Protons as well as have it retro-fitted to a model already in use.
The system, which takes about four hours to install (retro-fit), is also available for non-Proton makes. Proton has subsidized the cost for Proton customers and it costs RM1,499. For non-Protons, the cost is RM1,850. These are the present introductory prices with free installation and additionally, customers get the first year of service free; the normal subscriber fee is RM150 annually.
To date, some 5,000 vehicles in Malaysia are said to be fitted with the system, of which 80% are Protons. With the large customer base of PE, Netstar is aiming to install the system in at least 30,000 vehicles this year.
How the Captor system works
The Captor system is basically a system which enables the vehicle to be tracked, thus enabling it to be recovered. It has a special unit which is hidden in the car and has its own back-up battery supply. The unit interfaces with the doors and engine of the vehicle and is activated when an unauthorised action (starting of engine or opening of doors) is detected. It can also detect when the vehicle is being towed (which has led to many false alarms when cars have been towed away by DBKL!), an important feature as it is known that thieves do blatantly tow cars away too.
For reasons of privacy, the system is not ‘active’ all the time, meaning that its location is not shown on the map at the control centre in the Klang Valley, Selangor. Only when it is activated by a specific type of action will a signal be sent to the control centre and then the location will immediately be seen on a large display screen. At this point, however, it is not automatically assumed that the vehicle is being stolen – it could be in a workshop and the battery has been disconnected to do some work. The control centre will attempt to contact the owner to ascertain the situation first.
If the owner confirms that the vehicle has been stolen, the control centre alerts its roving recovery teams which presently number 12 around the country, the majority in urban areas where most thefts occur. There is also one airborne team which uses a helicopter and can track vehicles all the way to the Thai border, if necessary. However, pursuit across the border will require permission from Thai authorities. The control centre operates 24 hours a day and has five servers which can monitor up to 50,000 vehicles and track 10 vehicles simultaneously.
The system does not use GPS (satellite) or GSM (cellphone) methods of transmission but uses radio frequencies. It therefore does not require line-of-sight situations to work properly and even if the vehicle is hidden in a building, its location will be visible on the display at the control centre. The coverage of the system is 85% in populated areas (using receiver towers) in Peninsular Malaysia, with the remaining 15% covered by the airborne team.
The key to success is the ability to track the vehicle and then close in on it when it is stopped.. The recovery teams, many of whom are ex-servicemen or ex-police, are not expected to arrest the thieves and their main task is to recover the vehicle. They will work closely with the police who would assist when necessary, especially if the thieves are armed and dangerous. It is also possible to use the system to immobilise the engine to prevent it from being moved away.