This car theft story contains so many astonishing things about our modern world that it's hard to know where to start. Ben Yu is a startup founder, living in San Francisco's Mission District, and he has a Mini Cooper. The car has suffered constant break-ins and vandalism, and then it was stolen -twice. While Yu waited hours to file a police report, he also tracked the car's movements on his GPS.
Meanwhile, his car ran out of gas a whole city away in Brisbane, CA. The thief left it on the side of the road and stole the key.
He retrieved the car with no gas and no key… Then it got jacked again on Thursday.
According to his Facebook, Yu woke up at 8:15 am on Thursday and found that his car had been stolen again from almost the exact same spot. He guessed it was the same perpetrator as Wednesday’s theft because that person would have already had a key.
How that happened: If you’re letting people rent your car through Getaround, you leave your keys in your car, and the Getaround app locks the doors and disables the engine in case of a break-in. Yu’s friend Travis Herrick had been using the Mini, and Herrick had used the normal key to lock the car instead of the Getaround app, though he still left the spare key in the car for renters. When the thief broke in for the second time, they could start the car and make away with it because the app hadn’t hobbled the engine.
First off, the modern technology involved in this story is staggering. He rents out the car, so the key must be left in it. Yet it can be tracked. And locked and unlocked without a key. And disabled remotely, under certain circumstances. This tech ran into real world low-tech problems with both police bureaucracy and life in a high crime area. Then there's the absurdity of a tech-savvy startup founder who can't afford to live in a safe neighborhood and must rent out his vehicle for extra money. Yu framed his Facebook story as a problem with law enforcement, but it can also be told in the context of the limits of technology or the insane cost of living in San Francisco. You can read the entire chronology at Buzzfeed, where you'll also see a video of Yu and Harris tracking the second theft.
(Image credit: Ben Yu)