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Fingerprints open door to theft protection

November 13, 2002|Rick Popely | Chicago Tribune

In the future, even a thief with the keys might not get far in a stolen car.

A fingerprint sensor developed by Siemens Biometrics that adjusts comfort and convenience features to suit different drivers also can electronically immobilize the engine if the person behind the wheel isn't an authorized user.

The sensor, which is about the size of a postage stamp and mounts on the center console, will debut next year on European versions of the Audi A8, said Michael Weber, North American sales director for Siemens Biometrics, a division of German electronics giant Siemens.

Initially, the fingerprint sensor will not be able to immobilize the engine, Weber said. Instead, it will set electronic features to preferences such as seat, mirror and steering-column positions, radio stations and climate control, selected by as many as four drivers and stored in memory.

Weber envisions future applications, though, as an anti-theft device in which the engine shuts down, the doors lock and satellite-based equipment summons police.

"The auto industry hasn't accepted this yet, but we could do it," Weber said.

Audi of America has not decided whether the sensor will be on U.S. versions of the next-generation A8, scheduled to arrive next summer, spokeswoman Jennifer Cortez said.

Audi has exclusive use of Siemens' fingerprint sensor for two years, but Weber expects other automakers to embrace the technology and use the security capabilities.

Drivers would have to "enroll their finger" through a dealer to use the car. If they forget to identify themselves by placing a finger on the sensor, an interior warning would prompt them.


Rick Popely is an automotive writer for the Tribune, a sister paper of The Times.

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