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Lock suspect in stolen car to bust him? There’s an app for that…

The smileworthy technology story of the week has a car thief suspect remotely locked inside a stolen car. Except we're calling it busted.

Here’s a popular and smile-worthy “sometimes you have to love technology” story, now popping up all over the web.

Last week, police in Seattle, Washington arrested a suspected car thief after BMW traced the car using its on-board navigation computer, which can call home to report the vehicle’s location.

According to CNET, the suspect was found quite literally asleep at the wheel, having allegedly parked up and passed out.

Numerous reports rather gleefully report that BMW assisted the cops by remotely locking the thief in the car so he couldn’t escape. Apparently, in recent model BMWs, there’s an app for that.

As amusing and as serves-him-right as this story sounds, we’re saying, “Busted.”

We don’t think it’s possible to lock the driver into a BMW, remotely or otherwise.

According to BMW owners of our acquaintance, the doors lock automatically every time you drive off, but using the door’s interior handle will open the driver’s door again without using the key or the app.

Anyway, if you were locked in a stolen car with the engine running, as the BBC’s version has it, rudely awakened by the cops standing round the vehicle, and you decided to make your escape, you wouldn’t bother to get out, would you?

You’d surely just drive away, or try to, so the locked doors would be a hindrance to the police, not an advantage.


I have my doubts that there’s a real lock-someone-in-the-car feature. For one thing, if the car caught fire, then the car manufacturer would probably get sued. Aside from that, though, someone locked in a car could try to break a window, or if he/she could access and crawl through the trunk, it has something you can pull to manually open it.


There are, however, bait cars used by the police to catch thieves. I remember seeing videos of the perps on some of those Cop shows some years ago.


BMW’s definitely have a deadlock feature. When you switch off the car, open and close the drivers door and then lock it with the key, you can no longer unlock the car in any way other than with the remote key. So it is entirely possible to lock someone in the car, but only under the conditions that the car thinks you have exited the vehicle.


I’m backing as a fact that you that if you are inside a locked BMW you can open it from the driver’s seat by pulling the door handle twice (unlock then open) whether the car thinks you are inside or not.

For legal reasons, if nothing else, it would IMO be silly to disable the door handle if you thought no one was in the car, because if you are right then the handle is irrelevant, but if you are not then the person will have to smash their way out.

However, in this case, the bloke was allegedly in the driver’s seat and the engine was running. So you can repeat the test by locking yourself in with the app and then trying to open the door.


A while back, I heard from a coworker that owns a BMW that you can indeed lock people in.


To be fair, that’s not the same as verifying that you actually *can* lock people in such that they can’t get out even using the keyfob or the door handle.

Also…why would the cops want to lock the guy in if he could drive away? Surely they’d approach and yank the door open to grab the key and *stop* him driving away. (You can drive with the doors locked. In fact, they “lock you in” automatically when you drive off anyway.)


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