Login| Sign Up| Help| Contact|

Patent Searching and Data


Title:
A VEHICLE ANTI-THEFT DEVICE
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2018/042237
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
An anti-theft device (100) is fitted to a vehicle in order to prevent theft thereof by immobilising a driveshaft (51) of the vehicle downstream of a power plant. To this end, a friction clamp (52) is concentrically received around the driveshaft (51) thereby frictionally to engage a periphery of the driveshaft (51) when in a locked position. The device (100) includes an electrical motor (53) which is coupled to the clamp by way of a screw-threaded rod (54) and a pair of jaws (55). The jaws comprise a screw-follower (55.1) which meshes with the screw-threaded rod and a proximal jaw (55.2). The clamp (52) is moved from an open position in which the driveshaft is permitted to rotate relative to the clamp to its locked position in which it engages the driveshaft. An ECU controls engagement of the clamp depending upon a position of a handbrake and ignition switch.

Inventors:
TALJAARD, Philippus, Petrus, Erasmus (11 Cecilia Street, 1200 Nelspruit, 1200, ZA)
Application Number:
IB2016/057539
Publication Date:
March 08, 2018
Filing Date:
December 12, 2016
Export Citation:
Click for automatic bibliography generation   Help
Assignee:
HARDCORE AUTOMOTIVE LOCKING TECHNOLOGIES (PTY) LTD (Jolin HouseCnr Marloth & van der Merwe Streets, 1200 Nelspruit, 1200, ZA)
International Classes:
B60R25/00; B60R25/04; B60R25/06; E05B77/00
Foreign References:
US1363676A1920-12-28
US2992693A1961-07-18
US1668395A1928-05-01
US1349849A1920-08-17
US1687475A1928-10-09
US2218730A1940-10-22
US2814361A1957-11-26
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
DAVIES, James, Hasely et al. (Adams & Adams, PO Box 1014, 0001 Pretoria, 0001, ZA)
Download PDF:
Claims:
CLAIMS:

1 . An anti-theft device for a vehicle which includes a power plant and a drivetrain, the power plant being drivingly connected to the drivetrain in order to propel the vehicle, the anti-theft device including:

a locking member which is mounted adjacent to a driveshaft of the drivetrain, downstream of the power plant, the locking member being movable relative to the drivetrain between an open position in which the driveshaft is permitted to rotate relative to the locking member and an engaged or locked position in which the locking member inhibits relative displacement of the driveshaft by frictionally engaging the driveshaft and hence preventing movement of the vehicle; and

an actuator which is configured to displace the locking member to its locked position by urging the locking member into frictional engagement with the driveshaft.

2. An anti-theft device as claimed in claim 1 , wherein the locking member is a friction clamp, the actuator being configured to urge the clamp into frictional engagement with the driveshaft.

3. An anti-theft device as claimed in claim 1 or 2, wherein the driveshaft is a propeller shaft of the vehicle.

4. An anti-theft device as claimed in any one of the preceding claims, wherein at least part of the driveshaft and the locking member are housed within a transmission casing of the drivetrain.

5. An anti-theft device as claimed in any one of the preceding claims, wherein the actuator is electrically actuated and configured to move the locking member between its locked position and its open position.

6. An anti-theft device as claimed in any one of the preceding claims wherein the locking member is part annular and is concentrically arranged about the driveshaft. 7. An anti-theft device as claimed in any one of the preceding claims, wherein the locking member is a composite friction clamp including at least two axially aligned annular clamp members, each clamp member having a friction brake lining, the clamp being biased to an open position in which the driveshaft is permitted to rotate relative thereto.

8. An anti-theft device as claimed in any one of the preceding claims which includes an electronic control unit which is communicatively coupled to the actuator and is configured to actuate the actuator in order to move the locking member into its locked position provided that power from the power plant to the driveshaft is cut-off and that the driveshaft is not in motion or is rotating at a velocity below a predetermined threshold value.

9. An anti-theft device as claimed in claim 8, wherein the electronic control unit is configured to receive as inputs a first signal indicative of whether or not power to the power plant is cut off and a second signal indicative of whether or not the driveshaft is in motion.

10. An anti-theft device as claimed in claim 8 or 9, wherein the actuator comprises an electrical motor which is actuated by way of a control signal received from the electronic control unit, and wherein the motor is drivingly connected to a worm gear or screw-threaded rod which engages at least one end of the locking member and is configured to urge opposite ends of the locking member toward one another. 1 1 . An anti-theft device as claimed in claim 10, wherein the actuator includes a screw-follower which meshes with the screw-threaded rod.

12. An anti-theft device as claimed in claim 1 1 , wherein the locking member has lugs which are attached to opposite ends thereof and includes a gripping surface configured frictionally to engage the driveshaft, the actuator including a pair of jaws which operatively engage the lugs of the locking member and are configured to urge them toward one another upon rotation of the screw-threaded rod in a first direction.

13. An anti-theft device as claimed in claim 9, wherein the first signal is indicative of a position of the vehicle ignition, i.e. on or off and the second signal is indicative of a position of a handbrake or parkbrake of the vehicle, i.e. engaged or disengaged.

14. An anti-theft device as claimed in claim 13, wherein the electronic control unit is configured automatically to actuate the actuator in order to move the locking member into its locked position when the electronic control unit detects that a vehicle ignition is turned off and a handbrake or parkbrake is engaged.

15. An anti-theft device as claimed in any one of claim 8 to 14, which includes a remote control which is communicatively coupled to the electronic control unit and which is configured to actuate the actuator in order to move the locking member between its respective positions, the device accordingly being remotely actuatable. 16. An anti-theft device as claimed in claim 15, wherein, in response to receipt of a control signal from the remote control by the electronic control unit, the locking member is moved to its open position by the actuator.

17. An anti-theft device as claimed in claim 15 or claim 16, which includes a wireless communication module which is communicatively linked to the electronic control unit and is configured to communicate with the remote control.

18. An anti-theft device as claimed in claim 17, wherein the communication module includes any one or more from the group comprising: a satellite tracking unit, a satellite transceiver, a radio transceiver, a Bluetooth module, a RFID transceiver, a GSM-enabled module and a Wi-Fi module, such that signals and commands can be sent to and received from the device via a satellite and/or cellular communication network via the communication module which is coupled to the electronic control unit.

19. An anti-theft device as claimed in any one of claims 8 to 18, which includes a biometric reader whereby the electronic control unit is configured to authenticate a user prior to deactivating or disengaging the locking member.

20. An anti-theft device as claimed in any one of the preceding claims, which includes a retro-fittable tamperproof casing which is configured to house the locking member, actuator and an electronic control unit, the locking member being disposed downstream of a clutch.

21 . An anti-theft device as claimed in any one of the preceding claims which is retrofittable to a vehicle.

22. An anti-theft device as claimed in claim 20, which includes a back-up battery housed within the casing.

23. A method of preventing theft of a vehicle, the method including:

providing an anti-theft device as claimed in any one of the preceding claims installed to a vehicle, the locking member being configured frictionally to engage a driveshaft of a drivetrain of the vehicle when in its locked position; sensing, using an electronic control unit whether or not the driveshaft is rotating below a predetermined threshold angular velocity;

sensing using the electronic control unit whether or not power to the driveshaft is interrupted; and

gripping the driveshaft of the vehicle using the locking member in order to immobilise at least part of the drivetrain subject to the conditions that the driveshaft is rotating below a predetermined threshold angular velocity and power to the driveshaft from the vehicle is interrupted.

24. A method as claimed in claim 23, wherein the electronic control unit of the anti-theft device is communicatively linked to a vehicle alarm control unit such that when the vehicle alarm is disarmed, the locking member of the anti- theft device is moved to its open position.

25. A method as claimed in claim 23 or claim 24, which includes:

coupling a handbrake or parkbrake of the vehicle as input to the electronic control unit of the device; and

coupling an ignition switch of the vehicle as input to the electronic control unit of the device, wherein the electronic control unit is configured to actuate the actuator in order to move the locking member into its locked position when the ignition switch is turned off and the handbrake is engaged.

Description:
A vehicle anti-theft device

FIELD OF INVENTION

This invention relates to vehicle security and, more specifically, to a drivetrain locking mechanism for preventing theft of vehicles.

BACKGROUND OF INVENTION

Vehicle security is a multi-million rand industry. Many different theft deterrent devices have been developed over the years to prevent vehicle theft. Despite Inventors' best efforts vehicle theft is still rife in many countries and particularly so in South Africa. Many new vehicles come fitted with a sophisticated vehicle alarm system, immobiliser and/or GPS tracking unit. However, despite the inclusion of these devices and systems in vehicles, a large number of vehicles are still being stolen annually.

Although some stolen vehicles that were fitted with a tracking unit are recovered, often significant damage has already been done to the vehicle by thieves in an attempt to locate any possible tracking devices. Therefore, despite having recovered the stolen vehicle, repair costs are still exorbitant and many vehicle owners are reluctant to take a stolen and recovered vehicle back due to depreciation in its value.

Vehicle theft syndicates have found ways of breaking into vehicles and bypassing or disabling existing vehicle alarm systems within minutes. In some instances, the thieves carry a portable electronic control unit with them, specific to the vehicle being targeted, which allows them to disconnect and bypass the vehicle's existing alarm/immobiliser system. This means that they can quickly and relatively easily gain entry to the vehicle and bypass the existing vehicle alarm/immobiliser system and drive off within minutes, minimising the possibility of being caught in the act.

US 201 1/0193692 discloses an anti-theft system for a vehicle which comprises an access controller 20, a lock mechanism 21 including a steering shaft lock 40 and a hood lock 60 and an alarm unit 25. The system comprises a programmable processor 201 which is configured to actuate a drive unit 50 which is configured to move a lock rack 57 into and out of engagement with a limit unit 53 or toothed collar which is mounted to the steering shaft in order to prevent unauthorised turning of the steering wheel. The access controller 20 further includes a handbrake sensor 234 amongst others. In the drawings, a handbrake cable is illustrated which mechanically engages the lock rack 57 to prevent engagement thereof with the toothed collar when the handbrake is disengaged. The access controller 20 is enclosed in a housing 203 besides a steering column and distal steering wheel. A drawback of this system is that once a thief has gained access to the vehicle cabin, the steering shaft lock 40 can easily be tampered with, bypassed or physically broken into and damaged, destroyed or rendered inutile due to the fact that it is located at an easily accessible position adjacent to the steering column. The lock 40 may also be broken off using sheer force in order to free up rotation of the steering wheel.

US8006526 teaches a steering shaft lock actuator including at least one motor drivingly connected to a locking pawl and a housing for a least partially enclosing the motor, a drivetrain, the locking pawl and a locking pin. The drivetrain is configured linearly to urge the locking pawl and the locking pin between a locked position wherein the locking pawl and locking pin extend at least partially out of the housing and an unlocked position wherein the locking pawl and the locking pin are retracted toward the housing relative to the locked position. The locking pawl is positioned to prevent rotational movement of the steering shaft when in the locked position. A downside of the steering shaft lock actuator is that it is located within the vehicle cabin which is within reach of a driver or thief inside the cabin. This renders it susceptible to tampering or breakage through the use of force. Through the use of brute force the housing and mechanism can be broken off from the steering column once access has been obtained by removing dash or steering column panels.

US 1476437 discloses a shaft locking means which operates purely mechanically in order to lock and unlock a steering shaft. The steering shaft lock requires the use of a key inserted into a keyhole to lock and unlock the shaft locking means. When the key is turned, a locking pawl is moved into or out of engagement with a toothed collar around the shaft to be locked. One drawback is that the locking pawl only prevents rotation in one direction. The shaft locking means has the drawback of lack of integration with a vehicle's existing electronic alarm or control system and requires manual locking and unlocking through the use of a physical key.

Thieves have managed to bypass or otherwise disable most anti-theft mechanisms which are either directed toward disabling or preventing the use of peripheral driving controls of the vehicle such as the gear lever, pedals or steering wheel or immobilising the vehicle by electrically or electronically interrupting power supply to critical components such as pumps or motors in the event that predetermined alarm or start conditions are not satisfied. All of these devices or systems are installed upstream of the power plant or engine or drivetrain of the vehicle. Therefore, if the thief manages to supply the immobilised components with power directly, or manages to disable the anti- theft mechanisms themselves, the vehicle can be started. This is sometimes achieved by hot-wiring the fuel pump, for example, directly from the battery leads.

Only a couple of inventions of which the Applicant is aware have suggested devices which are to be installed downstream of the power plant or engine of the vehicle. A couple of them and their drawbacks have been discussed below.

US2992693 describes a drive shaft lock for an automobile which is designed automatically to engage when an operator opens a vehicle door without placing the transmission handle in the "park" position. This is to prevent vehicle runaway. A rod is configured to protrude through one of a number of holes formed in a periphery of a circular disc attached to the drive shaft. A speed governor opens a micro-switch which prevents engagement of the rod when the vehicle is in motion. Power to the ignition switch is turned off when the vehicle door is opened. Unfortunately, this drive shaft lock is not suitable for use a theft-deterrent as the rod and disc are exposed and can easily be tampered with to prevent insertion of the rod into any of the holes or to retract the rod from the holes, if it had previously engaged the disc. Furthermore, the disc can easily be removed or loosened by removing the set screw. US2992693 also does not teach integration of the system with an electronic vehicle alarm or control system which includes the use of a processor or electronic control unit.

US 1668395 describes a shaft lock for an automobile. This locking device is designed to inter-engage the drive shaft of a vehicle at some point beyond the clutch so as to lock the rear wheels against forward motion without interfering with the operation of the engine or clutch. The locking device only prevents rotation in one direction when engaged with the drive shaft. A neck of the locking device projects through an opening in the floor of the passenger compartment and requires physical manipulation through rotation by hand in order to engage/disengage the locking device. Operation of the locking device is awkward and cumbersome and deters operators from using it.

The Applicant has identified a need for a vehicle anti-theft device which overcomes the above drawbacks. The present invention aims to address the above problem(s), at least to some extent.

SUMMARY OF INVENTION In accordance with a first aspect of the invention, there is provided an anti- theft device for a vehicle which includes a power plant and a drivetrain, the power plant being drivingly connected to the drivetrain in order to propel the vehicle, the anti-theft device including: a locking member which is mounted adjacent to a driveshaft of the drivetrain, downstream of the power plant, the locking member being movable relative to the drivetrain between an open position in which the driveshaft is permitted to rotate relative to the locking member and an engaged or locked position in which the locking member inhibits relative displacement of the driveshaft by frictionally engaging the driveshaft and hence preventing movement of the vehicle; and

an actuator which is configured to displace the locking member to its locked position by urging the locking member into frictional engagement with the driveshaft.

The locking member may be a friction clamp. The actuator may be configured to urge the clamp into frictional engagement with the driveshaft. The driveshaft may be a propeller shaft of the vehicle. At least part of the driveshaft and the locking member may be housed within a transmission casing of the drivetrain.

The actuator may be electrically actuated. It may also be configured to move the locking member between its locked position and its open position.

The locking member may be part annular. Also, the locking member may be concentrically arranged about the driveshaft.

The locking member may be a composite friction clamp including at least two axially aligned annular clamp members. Each clamp member may have a friction brake lining. The clamp may be biased to an open position in which the driveshaft is permitted to rotate relative thereto.

The device may include an electronic control unit which is communicatively coupled to the actuator. The electronic control unit may be configured to actuate the actuator in order to move the locking member into its locked position provided that power from the power plant to the driveshaft is cut-off and that the driveshaft is not in motion or is rotating at a velocity below a predetermined threshold value. The electronic control unit may be configured to receive as inputs a first signal indicative of whether or not power to the power plant is cut off and a second signal indicative of whether or not the driveshaft is in motion.

The actuator may comprise an electrical motor which is actuated by way of a control signal received from the electronic control unit. The motor may be drivingly connected to a worm gear or screw-threaded rod which engages at least one end of the locking member. The motor may be configured to urge opposite ends of the locking member toward one another.

The actuator may include a screw-follower which meshes with the screw- threaded rod. The locking member may have lugs which are attached to opposite ends thereof. The locking member may include a gripping surface configured frictionally to engage the driveshaft. The actuator may include a pair of jaws which operatively engage the lugs of the locking member and are configured to urge them toward one another. The jaws may urge the lugs toward each other upon rotation of the screw-threaded rod in a first direction.

The first signal may be indicative of a position of the vehicle ignition, i.e. on or off. The second signal may be indicative of a position of a handbrake or parkbrake of the vehicle, i.e. engaged or disengaged.

The electronic control unit may be configured automatically to actuate the actuator in order to move the locking member into its locked position when the electronic control unit detects that a vehicle ignition is turned off and a handbrake or parkbrake is engaged.

The device may further include a remote control which is communicatively coupled to the electronic control unit and which is configured to actuate the actuator in order to move the locking member between its respective positions. The device may accordingly be remotely actuatable. In response to receipt of a control signal from the remote control by the electronic control unit, the locking member may be moved to its open position by the actuator.

The device may further include a wireless communication module which is communicatively linked to the electronic control unit and is configured to communicate with the remote control. The communication module may also be configured to communicate with a remote device such as a satellite or mobile network infrastructure device.

The communication module may include any one or more from the group comprising: a satellite tracking unit, a satellite transceiver, a radio transceiver, a Bluetooth module, a RFID transceiver, a GSM-enabled module and a Wi-Fi module. Signals and commands may be sent to and received from the device via a satellite and/or cellular communication network via the communication module which is coupled to the electronic control unit.

The device may include a biometric reader whereby the electronic control unit is configured to authenticate a user prior to deactivating or disengaging the locking member.

The device may include a retro-fittable tamper-proof casing which is configured to house the locking member, actuator and an electronic control unit. The locking member may be disposed downstream of a clutch. Accordingly, the device may be retrofittable to a vehicle. The device may also include a back-up battery housed within the casing.

The invention extends to a method of preventing theft of a vehicle, the method including:

providing an anti-theft device as described above installed to a vehicle, the locking member being configured frictionally to engage a driveshaft of a drivetrain of the vehicle when in its locked position; sensing, using an electronic control unit whether or not the driveshaft is rotating below a predetermined threshold angular velocity;

sensing using the electronic control unit whether or not power to the driveshaft is interrupted; and

gripping the driveshaft of the vehicle using the locking member in order to immobilise at least part of the drivetrain subject to the conditions that the driveshaft is rotating below a predetermined threshold angular velocity and power to the driveshaft from the vehicle is interrupted. The electronic control unit of the anti-theft device may be communicatively linked to a vehicle alarm control unit such that when the vehicle alarm is disarmed, the locking member of the anti-theft device is moved to its open position. The method may include:

coupling a handbrake or parkbrake of the vehicle as input to the electronic control unit of the device; and

coupling an ignition switch of the vehicle as input to the electronic control unit of the device. Accordingly, the electronic control unit may be configured to actuate the actuator in order to move the locking member into its locked position when the ignition switch is turned off and the handbrake is engaged.

The driveshaft may be at least partially located within a gearbox or within a differential housing of the vehicle and need not necessary be an exposed driveshaft such as the propeller shaft. Accordingly, at least the locking member may also be located within a transmission casing of the vehicle. The anti-theft device may be a drivetrain lock or driveshaft lock. As in this example embodiment, the driveshaft may be the prop shaft.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS The invention will now be further described, by way of example, with reference to the accompanying diagrammatic drawings.

In the drawings:

Figure 1 shows a schematic cross-sectional view through a driveshaft of a vehicle to which a vehicle anti-theft device in accordance with the invention has been fitted;

Figure 2 shows a conceptual block diagram of the anti-theft device;

Figure 3 shows a three-dimensional view of the driveshaft of figure 1 , a side plate of a housing being omitted for the sake of clarity;

Figure 4 shows a three-dimensional view of part of the anti-theft device attached to the vehicle driveshaft; and

Figure 5 shows a clamp of the anti-theft device disassembled from the driveshaft.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF AN EXAMPLE EMBODIMENT

The following description of the invention is provided as an enabling teaching of the invention. Those skilled in the relevant art will recognise that many changes can be made to the embodiments described, while still attaining the beneficial results of the present invention. It will also be apparent that some of the desired benefits of the present invention can be attained by selecting some of the features of the present invention without utilising other features. Accordingly, those skilled in the art will recognise that modifications and adaptations to the present invention are possible and can even be desirable in certain circumstances, and are a part of the present invention. Thus, the following description is provided as illustrative of the principles of the present invention and not a limitation thereof. The term "drivetrain" should be understood to mean the group of components that deliver power to the driving wheels including a vehicle transmission, couplings, driveshaft or propeller shaft, arms and rods but not including the wheels. The term "transmission" should be understood to include a vehicle gearbox and differential. In the figures, reference numeral 100 refers generally to a vehicle anti-theft device in accordance with the invention. In use, the device 100 is fitted to a vehicle in order to prevent theft thereof by immobilising the driveshaft 51 of the vehicle. This is achieved through use of a locking member which, in this example embodiment, is a part annular friction clamp or brake clamp 52 which is concentrically or coaxially received around the driveshaft 51 of the vehicle. The clamp 52 is configured frictionally to engage an outer periphery of the driveshaft 51 when in a locked position. In order to move or displace the clamp relative to the driveshaft into its locked position, the device 100 includes an actuator in the form of an electrical motor 53 which is coupled to the clamp 52 by way of a worm gear or screw-threaded rod 54 and a pair of jaws 55. The jaws 55 comprise a screw-follower 55.1 which meshes with the screw- threaded rod 54 toward a distal end of the rod 54 and a proximal jaw 55.2 which is mounted over the rod 54 proximate the motor 53, the rod 54 being allowed to rotate freely with respect to the proximal jaw 55.2. Thus, upon rotation of the rod 54 in a first direction the screw-follower 55.1 is drawn toward the proximal jaw 55.2, which remains in the same longitudinal position relative to the rod 54. In this manner the clamp 52 is moved from an open position in which the driveshaft 51 is permitted to rotate relative to the clamp 52 to a locked or engaged position in which the clamp 52 frictionally engages the driveshaft 51 .

In this example embodiment, the clamp 52 is a composite clamp which includes three axially aligned and interconnected, part annular clamp members 52.1 , 52.2, 52.3 (see figure 5). The clamp members are interconnected by way of an axially extending, common rib 56 which joins corresponding ends of the clamp members together. An opposite free end of each clamp member defines an attachment formation or lug in the form of a protruding hook 57 which is configured to engage with the jaws 55 of the actuator. The hooks 57 face outwardly, away from the common rib 56, to facilitate engagement with the jaws 55. The clamp members 52.1 , 52.2, 52.3 are arranged in alternating fashion such that the hooks 57.1 and 57.2 are disposed on opposite sides of the rib 56. Each clamp member has a friction lining or brake lining 58 on an inner periphery thereof which prevents slip and allows it to bind to the driveshaft 51. The jaws 55.1 , 55.2 are in the form of lengths of angle iron which are configured to mate with the hooks 57 by hooking onto the hooks 57 as shown in figure 4. The clamp members 52.1 , 52.2, 52.3 are resiliently biased to their open position in which the hooks 57.1 , 57.2, 57.3 are spaced away from the common rib 56 such that the brake linings 58 do not engage the driveshaft 51 , hence permitting the driveshaft 51 to rotate unfettered relative to the clamp 52. In its open position, the clamp 52 is suspended from the jaws 55.1 , 55.2.

Referring now to figures 1 and 2, the device 100 further includes an electronic control unit 60 which is communicatively linked to the actuator 53, a communication module 61 and a battery 62 which are housing within a tamper-proof housing or casing 63. The battery 62 is configured to power the device and may also serve as a back-up battery in the event that power from the vehicle is interrupted. The communication module 61 is also linked to the electronic control unit 60. Provided certain parameters are met, the electronic control unit 60 controls activation/deactivation or locking/unlocking, i.e. movement of the clamp 52 between its open and locked positions, by way of the actuator 53. In other words, the clamp 52 is movable by the actuator 53 between a locked position, in which it frictionally engages the driveshaft 51 , and an open position in which the driveshaft is free to rotate relative to the clamp 52. In a configuration in which the device 100 is not retrofitted to the vehicle, but installed upon vehicle assembly, at least part of the device 100, i.e. the clamp 52 may be incorporated into a gearbox housing of the vehicle. The device 100 may also be incorporated into a differential housing of the vehicle. Accordingly, the clamp 52 and actuator 53 may form part of the gearbox. For a front wheel drive vehicle the clamp 52 may be mounted to a side shaft which extends from the gearbox to a driving wheel. In this instance the electronic control unit may be housed within the gearbox housing or outside of it in a separate casing or within the differential housing or outside of it. For a rear wheel drive vehicle, the device 100 may be incorporated into a rear differential housing.

In the example embodiment illustrated in the figures, the device 100 is fitted to a drivetrain of the vehicle, downstream of or after a vehicle transmission. The device 100 may however also be installed inside a vehicle gearbox or differential housing as described above. The Applicant believes that conventional alarm systems which are configured to immobilise a vehicle by interrupting power to electrical components of either the ignition or starter are easier to bypass than when a physical lock has been applied to the drivetrain toward an end thereof. In other words, despite the use of mechanical locks to prevent unauthorised functioning of vehicle controls such as pedals, levers or a steering wheel, for example, it may still be possible to steal the vehicle by towing it away. The present invention aims to overcome this drawback.

The electronic control unit 60 includes a processor (not shown) which may be in the form of a microprocessor which is configured to receive as inputs a signal indicative of a position of a handbrake or parkbrake of the vehicle by way of an appropriate sensor 64 of the vehicle as well as a signal indicative of a position of the vehicle ignition by way of a suitable sensor 65 or by way of connection to the ignition switch itself. Preferably these signals are in the form of electrical input signals or voltage signals which are input to the microprocessor (see figure 2). As mentioned above, in order to limit access to the clamp 52 and actuator 53, they, together with the other components of the device 100 are enclosed in a robust, secure, tamper-proof casing 63 which is mounted to an underside of the vehicle around the driveshaft 51 , proximate a centre bearing support of the drivetrain by way of brackets (not shown). The casing 63 comprises two halves or parts 63.1 , 63.2 which are secured together using obscured or concealed bolts and nuts 28. Lock nuts and bolts which require the use of a special key or adapter to loosen or tighten are preferably used to secure the parts of the casing 63 together to prevent unauthorised removal thereof. The casing 63 is held in place by a number of mounting brackets which extend away from the casing 63 and are attached to centre bearing mountings or other suitable mountings.

The electrical components of the device 100 are powered from the vehicle power supply. However, the back-up battery 62 housed within the casing 63 provides back-up power when power from the vehicle power supply is interrupted for whatever reason. The device 100 can therefore not be bypassed by simply cutting a power cord supplying it with power. The device 100 is configured to be remotely activated or deactivated, i.e. primed to lock or unlock. The communication module 61 is in the form of wireless communication module which is communicatively linked to the electronic control unit 60. Alternatively, the module may form part of the electronic control unit 60, i.e. be integrated with the electronic control unit 60.

The device 100 therefore includes a remote control 35 which is configured to control operation, i.e. locking/unlocking of the clamp 52 by communicating with the communication module 61. The remote control may be in the form of a conventional radio signal remote control 35, RFID tag, proximity sensor or even a user's mobile phone or smartphone. The device 100 may be configured to activate or lock automatically upon detection by the electronic control unit 60 that power to the driveshaft 51 is interrupted, i.e. the ignition is turned off (sensor 65) and the handbrake is engaged (sensor 64) or the driveshaft 51 is not rotating or is rotating below a predetermined threshold. Also, the device 100 may be primed to lock in response to receipt of a control signal from the remote control 35 by the electronic control unit 60, in which case the actuator 53 will draw ends of the clamp 52 together to frictionally engage the driveshaft 51 as soon as the ignition is turned off and the handbrake is engaged or as soon as appropriate sensors 64, 65 sense that power to the driveshaft 51 has been interrupted and the driveshaft is rotating at a velocity which is below a predetermined threshold velocity for the device 100 to engage. In response to receipt of a different (unlock) control signal from the remote device 35, the electronic control unit 60 initiates activation of the actuator or motor 53 which operates in an opposite direction to release the clamp 52 to an open position in which the driveshaft 51 can rotate freely with respect to the clamp 52. This is achieved by rotating the screw-threaded rod 54 in an opposite direction such that the screw-follower 55.1 tracks away from the motor 53 and hence moves the jaws 55 apart which in turn permits the hooks 57, which are resiliently biased to their open position, to move apart to their open position in which the brake linings 58 do not engage the driveshaft 51 . Accordingly, in response to receipt of a control signal from the remote device 35, the electronic control unit 60 is configured to engage/disengage the clamp 52 from the driveshaft 51 through actuation of the motor 53 in opposite directions.

In an alternative configuration, the communication module 61 may be in the form of a satellite tracking unit. Accordingly, commands may be sent to and received from the ECU 60 via a satellite and/or cellular communication network via the tracking unit which is coupled to the electronic control unit 60. The tracking unit is securely housed within the casing 63 where it cannot be reached, removed or tampered with. The communication module may also be in the form of a satellite transceiver, Bluetooth module, RFID transceiver, GSM-enabled module, Wi-Fi module or other suitable wireless communication module. Furthermore, the device 100 may include a biometric reader (not shown), e.g. fingerprint reader which is configured to authenticate a user prior to deactivating or unlocking the clamp 52.

In a preferred configuration of the device 100, the clamp 52 is configured to grip or frictionally to engage the driveshaft 51 automatically when the vehicle ignition is turned off and the handbrake is engaged. In other words, as soon as the electronic control unit 60 receives a signal from the handbrake sensor 64 that the handbrake is engaged and also receives a signal from the ignition position sensor 65 that the ignition is turned off, it actuates the electrical motor 53 which rotates the screw-threaded rod 54 in the first direction, which in turn draws the screw-follower jaw 55.1 toward the other jaw 55.2. In this way the respective hooks 57 are urged toward the common rib 56 until the brake linings 58 frictionally engage the driveshaft 51 in order to fix it in position. In this locked position, the frictional engagement of the brake linings 58 with an outer periphery of the driveshaft 51 prevent rotation of the driveshaft 51 relative to the clamp 52 which means the driven wheels of the vehicle cannot rotate. This effectively immobilises the vehicle. Even if a thief manages to start the vehicle, he won't be able to drive away because the driveshaft 51 is fixed or locked in position by the clamp 52. The device 100 is also effective against towing of a rear wheel drive vehicle when the prop shaft is fixated, as the front wheels are generally suspended to tow a vehicle, which means the rear wheels need to be able to rotate to tow the vehicle. In this instance, the vehicle cannot be towed away whilst the clamp 52 is engaged because the rear wheels which are mechanically coupled to the fixated prop shaft cannot rotate freely. In an alternative configuration of the device 100, activation or priming may be controlled using the remote control device 35. When a control signal is received from the remote control device 35 to lock the clamp 52, the device 100 is effectively primed and as soon as the inputs from the sensors 64, 65 to the electronic control unit 60 indicate that the handbrake has been engaged and the ignition is turned off, the actuator 53 will actuate and rotate the screw-threaded rod 54 which will draw the screw-follower 55.1 toward the opposite proximate jaw 55.2 and effectively pull or urge the clamp members tightly around the driveshaft 51 through engagement of the jaws 55 with the respective hooks 57 such that the linings 58 frictionally engage the outer periphery of the shaft. When an unlock control signal is received from the remote control device 35, the electronic control unit 60 drives the motor 53 in the opposite direction which pushes the jaws 55 apart and releases the bind of the clamp members 52 on driveshaft 51 , the clamp members returning to their open position due to their bias. The drive shaft 51 can then rotate freely again.

In the event that the vehicle is stolen because the device 100 was not activated, an owner or service provider could, at the request of the owner, engage, prime or lock the device 100 remotely by forwarding a command to the electronic control unit 60 via the tracking unit/communication module 61 housed within the casing 63. In other words, as soon as the ignition is shut-off and the handbrake is engaged, the device 100 will lock onto the driveshaft 51 . The device 100 may also be integrated with the vehicle's existing alarm system. In other words, when a user locks the vehicle using his vehicle remote control, the device 100 may be activated, i.e. the clamp 52 moves to its locked position. An indicator in the form of a light is provided inside the cabin of the vehicle to indicate to the driver when the device 100 is activated or locked. In order to prevent damage to the drivetrain, the device 100 may warn an operator attempting to start the vehicle to first deactivate or unlock the device 100 using either the vehicle remote control, remote control 35 or biometric reader, prior to permitting the vehicle to start. Unlocking of the device 100 may also be a condition for the vehicle to start.

The robust metal casing 63 of the device 100 is located below the vehicle which means access to it is restricted unlike a steering shaft lock which can easily be tampered with or physically broken due to the fact that it is located at an easily accessible location adjacent to the steering column. In the embodiment of the invention in which the clamp 52 is enclosed in a transmission housing, it is even more difficult for a thief to gain access to it. Generally a hoist or jack is required to gain access to parts located below the vehicle. Furthermore, the casing prevents tampering with the components of the device 100 itself such as the motor 53, clamp 52 or electronic control unit 60. Electronic/electrical and automatic actuation of the clamp 52 in order to lock or unlock the device makes it simple to use because it does not require manual manipulation to engage and disengage the locking member. The communication module 61 enables remote control of the device 100 even when the owner is not in close proximity to the vehicle, for example when it has been stolen, he/she can still prime the device 100 to lock as soon as the ignition has been turned off. Instead of the handbrake sensor, the tracking unit or GPS data can be used as an input to the ECU 60 to establish whether or not the vehicle is in motion. Furthermore, the device 100 can be integrated with an existing vehicle alarm system so that it locks and unlocks together with the conventional alarm. The Applicant believes that the vehicle anti-theft device 100 in accordance with the invention will be a more effective vehicle theft deterrent than conventional anti-theft vehicle systems because it is difficult to bypass and fixates the entire driveshaft which immobilises the driven wheels of the vehicle and prevents towing. The first objective of a vehicle thief is to gain entry to the vehicle cabin. However, through the use of this anti-theft device 100, a thief would still not be able to drive the vehicle or disable the locking member despite having gained entry to the vehicle cabin.