When I think of a carjacking, I think of someone putting a gun to someone's head, or throwing them out of the car, or doing stuff like that and then taking their vehicle. A pretty serious crime.
When I think of vehicle theft, I think of someone taking a car. Maybe as the guy watches, maybe as he doesn't. A serious crime as well, but less serious.
The key difference between these two things is "force or fear". That's what distinguishes the two crimes. If you're taking the car by force or fear from the other person, it's carjacking. Otherwise it's merely theft/robbery/whatever.
Imagine that you get in a car (that's not yours) and start driving it away. Then, as you're slowly driving the thing away, someone sees you, and starts banging on the hood, or the window, or whatever, telling you to stop. But you don't.
You'd think that the relevant force that was applied there was the other guy's -- the guy trying to stop you. So that'd still be theft, but not carjacking, since it was someone else's doing.
But, if so, you'd be wrong, according to the Court of Appeal. You took the car, and did exactly what you needed to (i.e., rolled the thing along) to take it, and no more. But once someone else grabs the car, now it's carjacking if you don't immediately stop.
Not what I would have thought carjacking entails.
But definitely the law in California now.