What if all of the cars in a parking lot were wirelessly keeping an eye on one another just in case a member of the "herd" was damaged or stolen? Sencun Zhu, an assistant professor at Penn State University, wants to make this concept a reality with his new Sensor Vehicle Anti-Theft System (SVATS). This is how it works: each car is given a coin-sized sensor that wirelessly calls roll with other cars inside a certain range. If one of these cars fails to respond to the roll or issues a "goodbye" signal when it is unlocked, the system will assume that the car has been stolen and would respond by alerting a base station.
Zhu believes that the best solution would be for each car to have a master sensor that draws power from the car and backs it up using a series of battery-powered slave sensors hidden throughout the vehicle. If the master sensor was defeated by the thief, the slave sensors would jump in and take over. Mass produced, these sensors would be cheap enough for owners to hand out at commercial parking lots as a preventative measure. Again, the SVATS is only a concept at this point, but could it make it as a real-world product? The system is designed to prevent theft, not stop a theft in progress. In my opinion, it probably wouldn't be much more effective than a built-in alarm—and a lot more complicated to boot. [LiveScience]