Car rental and fleet services group Avis claims to have become the first vehicle fleet operator in SA to introduce microdot technology to reduce theft and increase the recovery of stolen vehicles.

Car rental and fleet services group Avis claims to have become the first vehicle fleet operator in South Africa to introduce microdot technology to reduce theft and increase recovery of stolen vehicles. reported in September 2001 that DataDot Technology, a system that would make virtually it impossible for a stolen car - or any of its parts - to go untraced, had been launched in Australia. At the time, Australian subsidiaries of Porsche, Ford, Mitsubishi and BMW welcomed DataDot Technology and the innovation was endorsed by one of Australia's biggest car insurance companies.

Avis this week announced that more than 1 000 of the new vehicles being introduced into its local rental fleet from July were being fitted with the technology, which captures a vehicle’s unique identification (VIN) code and other data on about 10 000 near-invisible microdots.

How the system works:

DataDots are made of a polyester substrate 1mm in diameter, with the 17-digit VIN or chassis number laser-etched onto each dot. The dots are sprayed on strategic parts of the car - from inside the glove boxes to all the engine components - with a special water-borne spray adhesive that has UV additives providing easy identification of sprayed areas.

The microdots are so hard to see that the only way they can be recognised is if the suspected stolen component is viewed through a specialised spotting scope… A detection kit consists of a 30x magnifying scope and a handheld ultraviolet lamp. Police, insurance and corporate investigators are supplied with these magnifying scopes and the adhesive is readily detected using a black or UV light.

Following the detection of microdots, the vehicle identification number of a part or panel can be cross-checked with South Africa’s central vehicle ownership database.

Executive director of operations and finance at Avis Rent a Car, Pat O’Brien, said: “Vehicle identification number fraud is a major problem in South Africa, whether the criminal attempts to modify or remove the VIN number or use more sophisticated methods.

“Microdot technology does not only have the potential to deter theft, but increased the chances of vehicles being recovered and can provide evidence that could lead to prosecution of offenders”.

Trade in stolen components is rife in South Africa because parts are easily stripped of VIN numbers. Many recovered vehicles have had their identities altered by theft syndicates and are unable to be traced back to their legal owners. As a result, thousands of recovered stolen vehicles are crushed every month in South Africa.

“DataDot makes it virtually impossible to effectively change the identity of a vehicle or to amalgamate several stolen vehicles into one. The system greatly improves the effectiveness of inspections carried out by transport agencies prior to re-registration or arising from written-off vehicle register queries,” Andy Blew, managing director of DataDot South Africa said this week.

An Avis spokesman added that all new vehicles coming into the Avis fleet would be sprayed with the microdots: “Avis will be installing the microdot technology for less than a tank of petrol per vehicle and claims that there will be no additional cost to the company’s rental rates.”

Microdot technology has been endorsed in South Africa by Savrala (South African vehicle rental and leasing association, SAIA (South African insurance association), the SAPS and Scorpions, the Vehicle crime steering committee and Business Against Crime.

Original article from Car