Rental agency tracking thieves

Car thieves shouldn’t plan on making a clean getaway if the stolen vehicle is from Toronto-based Thrifty Car Rentals. Having experienced exponential losses in thefts over the years, the Toronto-based company decided would play the victim no longer.

After some extensive shopping around, Thrifty settled on AirIQ Inc., also in Toronto, to provide its location-based technology to protect and manage Thrifty’s high-end vehicles.

“Although the technology is there to do other things in terms of fleet management, our priority and only objective was to locate and track stolen vehicles,” said Bill McNeice, executive vice-president of Thrifty Canada Ltd.

McNeice said that the company has implemented the AirIQ solution in Toronto and Montreal in its high-end corporate-owned Jeep Grand Cherokee, Chrysler LHS, Chrysler 300M and Dodge Grand Caravan vehicles.

“Toronto and Montreal are the car theft capitals of Canada,” McNeice said. “It is really the higher-end priced vehicles we have put [this solution] in because they seem to have been targeted in 2001. The [systems] have been installed for about five months and we are very pleased so far.”

According to Anne Taylor, vice-president of rental vehicle and lease fleets for AirIQ, the solution works very simply. There are two components to the system: the application, which is AirIQ’s core competency, and the black box, which is installed in the vehicle. The black box incorporates cellular communication and global positioning system (GPS) location technology, Taylor said. It gives latitude, longitude, speed and direction to provide the exact location of a stolen vehicle.

“GPS is in the black box with wireless and computing and that information is transmitted via the wireless network and can then communicate back to AirIQ online,” Taylor said. “The client can access that information through the Internet, through a secured Web site. . .and get access to their vehicles.”

McNeice said that the installation time varies between units but the average time is about 30 to 45 minutes. Thrifty employees are trained by AirIQ staff to implement the black boxes themselves.

“Most (black boxes) are installed somewhere in the engine component,” he said. “You would have to be a professional to know where to find it and how to rip it off. There are other systems that have different hardware that needs to be installed where it is visible to the driver. That is something we didn’t want to do. We don’t want anything intrusive with our rental customers.”

McNeice said that the system is very user-friendly. All metro areas and secondary cities in Canada and the U.S. have been included in the system and appear as a map on the user screen. McNeice said that the system is able to track a vehicle up to within 15 feet. He added that there are different notifications that can be turned on, including a concept known as “fencing.”

“We set up a parameter anywhere that says that if this vehicle crosses this line – it could be the border between the U.S. and Mexico – we want to be notified,” he said. “In our case we set it up so that if any vehicle is in the port of Montreal or the port in Halifax, we want to be notified. The obvious reason is that vehicles are put into ships and sent overseas.”

One of the major problems with the technology is that, just as with a cell phone, there are areas in North America where service is unavailable.

“If your cell phone doesn’t work there, neither does AirIQ,” Taylor said. “There are limitations to the technology.”

Taylor said that if AirIQ chose to incorporate satellite technology, which has a greater footprint, into the system rather than cellular, the solution would have become price-prohibitive. She said that with the system the way it is, customers get the best of both worlds where they can keep the costs down but still get decent coverage.

The AirIQ system is available now and pricing is based on a monthly access fee and hardware costs. For details, visit