The theft of newer cars is actually a tricky business - because modern vehicles are usually equipped with a GPS transmitter, which makes it possible to determine the exact position in an emergency. But that only works if manufacturers – or their service providers – play along.
The police in Libertyville, Illinois, had a particularly bad experience. The Lake County Sheriff's Office shared the case on Facebook. Accordingly, a 34-year-old woman was attacked in her driveway. After she parked at home and brought one of her two children inside, another vehicle pulled up at her house. A man got out to steal their Volkswagen Atlas, a large SUV.
Since there was a two-year-old child in the vehicle, the woman defended herself vehemently, which is why the attacker beat her to the ground. The perpetrators then fled in both cars, ruthlessly running over the woman and leaving her with serious injuries.
Despite her pain, the woman called the police and reported that a child was in the stolen car. The search for the vehicle began immediately. Since the VW Atlas was a fairly new vehicle, the police immediately called Volkswagen Car-Net, the provider responsible for all mobile car-related services, including tracking.
The police write: "Unfortunately, there was a delay because Volkswagen Car-Net wanted to track the vehicle with the kidnapped child only after receiving payment for the reactivation of the tracking device in the stolen Volkswagen."
A report by the Chicago Sun Times explains what happened. The trial period for the Car-Net services had therefore expired - and the person at the other end of the hotline said that they could not track the car until the subscription was reactivated, i.e. paid for.
Although the police officer pointed out the "extremely urgent circumstances" and "begged for help," the officers had to provide a valid credit card and pay $150.
The process took so long that other police officers had already managed to find the car - and the child - based on a witness. It was also the witness who took the child into his care. Because, as the police reported, the perpetrators had simply abandoned the small child in a parking lot near a main road and then continued to flee with both vehicles.
Curiously, the police found the stolen car a little later, which is now at the police station to preserve evidence. The woman who was attacked is still in the hospital with serious injuries, but is in stable condition, according to the police report.
In a statement to Ars Technica and other media outlets, the manufacturer said: "Volkswagen has established a process for emergency law enforcement requests with a third-party provider of Car-Net support services. This process has been successfully implemented in previous incidents. Unfortunately, in this case there was a serious breach of procedure."
The "Chicago Sun Times" also quoted Volkswagen as saying: "Volkswagen takes the safety of its customers very seriously. Our thoughts are with the victims and their families. We are clarifying the situation with the parties involved."
This apparent case of human error leaves the police questioning. Normally, the deputy head of the department explains, automakers would immediately help as soon as the seriousness of the situation was made clear. The police are still looking for the second car, a "very loud" BMW.