Vehicle theft in car sharing: A major challenge on the rise

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Carsharing, Shared Mobility

Vehicle thefts in car sharing are on the rise

The popularity of car sharing continues to grow, as the industry has established a network of 50,000 vehicles in free-floating car sharing across Europe. However, the rise of car sharing is accompanied by the emergence of new challenges for operators. Reports of vehicle theft in car sharing have increased significantly in recent years. Car sharing operators are finding it increasingly difficult to ensure the integrity of their fleet and maintain the same level of user experience that has been a hallmark of their operations.

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Statistical data on vehicle theft in car sharing

To gain insight into the evolution of car sharing thefts, it is useful to examine widely available data on overall vehicle thefts. In 2022, 40,000 vehicles were stolen in Germany alone, representing an increase of 30% on the previous year. Other countries have experienced similar upward trends in car thefts. In the UK, for instance, a staggering 102,000 cars were stolen in 2021. Italy also noticed a rise in car thefts of almost 20% from 2021 to 2022 up to 90,000. This data exemplifies the increased volume at which cars are stolen.

Not surprisingly, car sharing operators have seen a similar increase in vehicle theft and illegal joyriding in their operations. As the industry-leading provider of car sharing technology, we are in constant conversation with operators, law enforcement agencies, and our integration partners. In these talks, we have received reports from companies that have been the victims of multiple incidents in a matter of days. In some cases, multiple vehicles were stolen or illegally accessed in a single afternoon. It seems that car sharing operators are not just experiencing the same upward trend in vehicle thefts that is evident everywhere, but that illegal access is rising even more sharply when it comes to shared vehicles.

Development of vehicle thefts in selected European countries

The number of vehicles stolen in Europe is on the rise.
The number of vehicles stolen in Europe is on the rise.

Why are vehicle thefts in car sharing on the rise?

So why are shared mobility companies being targeted by malicious actors? Although there is currently no reliable evidence or studies, initial conclusions can be drawn when examining customer behavior, distinctive characteristics of shared vehicles, and the unique features of car sharing businesses. There are several probable reasons why car sharing vehicles are a popular target for theft and vandalism:

  • Remote parking spaces

    Especially in free-floating car sharing, vehicles are parked all over cities. Customers renting a car almost exclusively care about getting to their destination and quickly finding a parking spot. They have little regard for how safe the parking spot is, which can sometimes mean they end up in rather remote areas like industrial districts or hardly visible side streets. This allows malicious actors to attack the cars without witnesses and without any time pressure.

  • Disinterest in vehicle integrity

    Customers may feel less direct responsibility for shared cars. Personal car owners will typically park their vehicles in their own neighborhood or even in secured locations like garages, where the car is less accessible to people with potentially malicious intent. This is not the case with shared vehicles, that are usually parked wherever is most convenient. Because of this, it is easier to prey on shared vehicles. Additionally, no individual resident of a neighborhood feels responsible for shared vehicles. In fact, they may even be annoyed by the vehicles taking up parking spaces in their neighborhood.

  • Company property

    Malicious actors looking to steal cars, vandalize or go on joyrides might perceive the theft or misuse of car sharing vehicles as less problematic and wrong than doing the same to private property. They may feel they are not causing any economic or emotional damage to an individual, since they are targeting a company.

  • Modern fleet

    Another reason for increased vehicle theft in car sharing might be that shared vehicles tend to be rather new and valuable. Some operators even offer high-powered sports cars. For these reasons, shared vehicles can seem more attractive for joyrides or thefts. The higher value of these vehicles may also increase the appeal of vandalism.

  • Digital framework

    The nature of car sharing businesses offers malicious actors access to cars they want to misappropriate or misuse. They can use stolen accounts or fake data to rent vehicles and either steal them immediately in the rental or drive them to remote locations, where they can be stolen more easily.

Malicious actors access shared vehicles with a stolen profile
Malicious actors access shared vehicles with a stolen profile

How to solve the problem of vehicle theft in car sharing?

As the possibilities for shared mobility increase and solutions evolve, it is essential to maintain and improve security of shared vehicles. Keeping the tech stack up to date is one of the indispensable requirements to deal with emerging problems like illegal joyrides and vehicle theft in car sharing. By doing so, car sharing operators guarantee the best rental experience to their customers. Car sharing telematics, the foundational pieces of every modern sharing business, provides a number of solutions to prevent car sharing theft:

  • Vehicle location tracking

    Accurate location tracking lets operators keep an eye on cars to notice when they leave the business area or if they are stuck in suspicious locations for longer periods of time. In case of a lost connection, it is even possible to retrace where the vehicle was driven up until the location data dropped off.

    In order to ensure stable connectivity even in remote areas, INVERS’ industry-leading CloudBoxx is equipped with multi-provider SIMs. With support for 2G, 4G and LTE-M, the telematics unit always switches to the best available network to avoid dead spots. This way, operators can be sure that a lost connection was caused by tampering and does not stem from unreliable connectivity. In case of possible thefts, this certainty can buy valuable time to retrieve the vehicle.

  • Remote immobilization and locking

    Telematics units offer operators the ability to remotely immobilize and lock cars. This is not only important in the event of an attack, but also to prevent vehicles from being accidentally left open after rentals.

    For this, it’s vital that the telematics unit reliably executes any commands sent to it, so cars aren’t left unlocked on the side of the road. A telematics unit with always-on-connectivity ensures commands are received successfully every time. The INVERS CloudBoxx performs regular checks – called Server-Side Heartbeats – to ensure a stable and operational connection to the server. Even in areas without cell reception, like underground parking, Bluetooth functionality acts as a fallback to guarantee cars are always secured. There’s no greater peace of mind than knowing your cars are properly locked and immobilized outside of rentals.

  • System-related security

    When building their user app, operators should perform thorough tests to verify that their rental workflow isn’t exploitable in any way. Attackers could abuse flawed programming to access cars without verified accounts or outside of rentals by manipulating their phones or abusing bugs in the sharing application’s code. They may also attempt to steal verified accounts of legitimate customers or circumvent identity verification. So, sharing businesses can also look into upgrading their verification to ensure they always know who’s using their cars.

    Implementing a new application, providing a comprehensive verification process or any other form of system integration presents a major challenge for car sharing operators. Especially for smaller startups, investing a lot of development time and money into building these systems isn’t feasible. In many cases the most cost-effective solution for these companies is to select external software partners. It allows operators to bridge technological boundaries by getting a tried-and-tested solution that’s ready for launch in no time.

  • Vehicle movement monitoring

    With extensive vehicle data, it’s possible to monitor vehicle movements and usage outside of rentals automatically. At the minimum, you can build dashboards and tools that allow your service teams to manually survey your fleet more easily. But the ideal solution is active, fleet-wide monitoring. An automated system that can scan all incoming telematics data for suspicious behavior in real-time, so your teams can focus on investigating actual incidents. However, building a system that can deal with the heaps of fleet data isn’t easy. For many businesses, creating such a sophisticated piece of software simply takes too much time and effort. For a solution to be accurate and reliable, it needs to be integrated with other parts of the tool stack as well as with the telematics units used seamlessly.

    As the industry leading provider of car sharing technology, INVERS is constantly working on providing new solutions for the car sharing industry. Our latest platform extension enables the monitoring of vehicle movements to detect theft and joyrides and therefore increases the integrity of sharing vehicles.

Fleet Guard: INVERS new platform extension to detect vehicle theft in car sharing.
Fleet Guard: INVERS' new platform extension to detect vehicle theft in car sharing.


Vehicle theft in car sharing is on the rise and will be one of the major challenges keeping operators busy in the next years. Existing telematics solutions already provide good protection against theft and tampering, but as illustrated, shared mobility’s focus on an optimized customer experience often comes at the cost of becoming a more attractive target to thieves and other malicious actors. At the same time, INVERS continues to research solutions that can further enhance the security of the shared vehicles.

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