Theft of 75 Vehicles in Chicago Exposes Carsharing's Vulnerabilities

Photo via Daimler.

In mid-April on a rather normal day, Daimler saw a spike in users for its carsharing service car2go in Chicago. The service had little knowledge that the sudden growth was much more insidious then they may have thought — resulting in a massive theft of Mercedes GLA and CLA models.

A recent analysis from Bloomberg Businessweek revealed the difficulties of managing carsharing theft. Despite being able to track and disable the vehicles from afar, the sheer number of vehicles being taken at once made it difficult to differentiate the fraudulent activity, according to Bloomberg.

As individuals from the company went to get the vehicles back, Mercedes GLA and CLA models, they were met with resistance from the thieves at the stolen vehicles, who blocked them in to prevent repossession. The problem escalated as the vehicles showed up in Facebook posts after joyrides and were soon offered for sale online. Others were gutted and abandoned.  

The biggest problem that plagues carsharing services, according to the report, is the fact that companies are giving individuals full control of a vehicle remotely, opening the door to theft.

To better compete with ride-hailing services such as Uber and Lyft and micro mobility scooter services, car2go had recently updated its new user verification policy to authenticate on the spot, Bloomberg reports.

Ultimately, all 16 thieves were arrested, and the vehicles were recovered, though many were stripped. Daimler suspended the car2go service in Chicago, admitting “that it couldn’t figure out how to distinguish legitimate customers from the group of thieves,” the report stated.

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