Thieves have been filmed on CCTV stealing a car from outside a house in County Meath using technology instead of a key. It follows a surge in car theft in Britain by thieves using a relay device that copies the radio signal being emitted from electronic car keys.

The thieves in County Meath were filmed arriving at a house and using a device to pick up the signal from the car key inside the house. Having copied the signal they were the able to break into the car and drive it away - all within a very short period. The BMW car has not been recovered.

The owner of the car in Clonee said she and her husband became aware of the incident when one their children woke them to tell them the light at the front of the house was on.

They looked out and saw the two men, one of them waving "what looked like a chopping board around" and then one of them got into the car and drove it away. "It's scary to think that is going on on your doorstep", she said.

Relay devices are now being used widely by car thieves in Europe. They can detect car key signals through brick, glass and wood and the only known way to deflect them is to store electronic fob keys in a metal lined container away from parts of the house easily accessible from outside.

Many newer cars have stop-start buttons instead of a conventional ignition key. The button relies on the signal from the key to enable to engine to start but does not require the driver to insert a key into an ignition slot. The system allows keyless entry to the car but car thieves have been quick to get their hands on technology that allows them to do the same.

Not all cars with stop-start buttons are luxury models. Ford, Nissan, Toyota, Mazda and Volkswagen, along with luxury brands like Mercedes, BMW, Jaguar and Mercedes all use them. A study by the German Automobile Club listed 19 manufacturers offering the system, which is now one of the top optional extras chosen by car buyers.

West Midlands Police in Britain previously released a video showing thieves stealing a car in seconds by using technology and not a key. 

The car’s security system is tricked into thinking the key is present and the vehicle unlocks, with the thieves drive away with the car they arrived in and the stolen car. 

The Mercedes still has not been recovered following the theft, which happened overnight on September 24.

Watch the video released by police:

Mark Silvester, from the West Midlands Police crime reduction team, advised car owners to use a Thatcham-approved steering lock to cover the entire steering wheel.

"We also recommend Thatcham-approved tracking solutions fitted to the vehicle," he said.

Thatcham is the motor insurers’ automotive research centre. Established by the British motor insurance industry in 1969, the centre’s main aim is to contain or reduce the cost of motor insurance claims whilst maintaining safety standards.

"It is always worth speaking to your main dealer, to ensure that your car has had all the latest software updates and talk through security concerns with them", said Mr Sylvester.

According to police, relay boxes are capable of receiving signals through walls, doors and windows, but not metal.

Sgt Tim Evans, from Solihull Police, said: "It’s important the public are reassured that we are taking proactive steps to tackle this type of crime in Solihull.

"We hope that knowledge of this type of crime will enable members of the public to take simple steps to secure their vehicle and assist us."

One of the first groups to spot the weakness in the system was a research team from a Chinese security company who designed and built the devices to mimic the key signal for €25.