How Does a Car Tracking System Work?

By Josienita Borlongan

GPS Tracking Integration

A vehicle equipped with a tracking system integrates with a GPS (Global Positioning System). A GPS gets its signals from the satellites to provide both navigation systems for the driver to find the way, but it also pinpoints the car's location. There are two types of GPS car tracking systems: the passive and active.

Passive Car Tracking System

The passive car tracking system provides records of travel activities, mileage, the destinations and the speeds used by the driver of the car. Some passive car tracking devices include features such as travel itinerary planning and maps. This type of tracking device transfers the data to a computer through a short-range radio link. This data transfer happens when the vehicle returns to the location of origin or base area such as a home's garage or parking lot. The user can playback the data to see or download the report.

Active Car Tracking System

The active car tracking system provides real-time data transfer and makes use of an internet-based tracking system to do its reporting. This type of car tracking system can even provide alerts on a user's email or fax to send updates on the car's whereabouts in real-time. This integrates with the signal when the key is in the ignition, and if the car moves without the key inside or near the car, the alert message gets sent. The satellite provides the data to the vendor's website. The user or driver can then visit the vendor's site and check on the reports as needed. Aside from the Internet, email or fax, the user can also opt receive the alerts or reports through a cell phone though an SMS (Simple Mail System) or texts. The active car tracking system is more expensive than the passive type because of the real-time data transmission. In addition, there are newer models that come without the bulky equipment eliminating the need for external power cables and external antennas.


Aside from tracking the location of the car, as well as providing data for the car travels, a car tracking system can provide peace of mind. It can help deter car theft, when a robbery is happening all a driver needs to do is press a button and help will be on the way. If the car thief takes control of the car, the car owner can find the car through the GPS tracking system to provide its location. This feature is also important when a driver gets into an accident or gets stranded somewhere such as the desert or flooded areas. With a switch of a button, a driver can ask assistance for a rescue. During an accident, when an airbags deploy, some car tracking systems can sense that action, which signals this incidence to the vendor who will try to contact the driver and send for help as needed. During a car trouble when a driver needs towing or service, a car tracking system with full service can also provide added feature to send a tow-truck or service technician at the site.