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Free software developed by Hyundai and Kia to deter theft

The software would be free of charge to owners of Hyundai and Kia vehicles that don't have an immobilizer.

WASHINGTON — The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced on Tuesday that Hyundai and Kia have developed theft-deterrent software for millions of their vehicles that don't have an immobilizer.

The software would be provided free of charge to the owners of the vehicles who are impacted.

According to NHTSA, the software updates the theft alarm software logic. It'll extend the length of the alarm song from 30 seconds to one minute and requires the key to be in the ignition switch in order to turn the vehicle on.

This comes amid an uptick in Hyundai and Kia vehicle thefts across the DMV. Police have attributed many of thefts to a TikTok social media challenge, which included videos that appeared online showing people how to steal cars from those manufacturers using USB charging cords. 

The method of using a USB cord to steal certain models of Kias and Hyundais has been on the rise since instructional videos appeared on social media. The Highway Loss Data Institute says the cars being targeted are because the keys lack computer chips for theft "immobilizer" systems.

The NHTSA said Tuesday that the challenge, which has spread nationwide, has resulted in at least 14 reported crashes and eight fatalities.

Hyundai will also provide their customers with a window sticker that lets potential thieves know that the vehicle is equipped with anti-theft protection. The stickers and software updates will roll out in what the NHTSA called a "phased approach" beginning later this month, with subsequent phases over the next few months.

Kia's software will also be rolled out in a phased approach. The company will begin to update vehicles later this month.

Both companies have worked with law enforcement agencies to provide more than 26,000 steering wheel locks since November 22 to 77 law enforcement agencies across 12 states.

NHTSA urges owners of these vehicles to contact Hyundai (toll-free at 800-633-5151) or Kia (toll-free at 800-333-4542) for information on the free update.

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