Stop, thief! OnStar will brake stolen cars
GM's OnStar unveils feature that will allow operators to aid police by remotely cutting engine power on stolen cars.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- General Motors' OnStar division announced Tuesday that it is introducing a service that will put the brakes on car thieves.
The feature, to be offered in 2009 model cars, will allow call-center operators in Detroit to remotely cut off engine power in OnStar-equipped vehicles that are reported stolen - helping police in hot pursuit of thieves to collar perps.
"The Stolen Vehicle Slowdown service will allow our subscribers added peace of mind by possibly preventing their vehicle from being used as an instrument of harm if it happens to be stolen," said Chet Huber, OnStar president.
OnStar, a wholly-owned subsidiary of General Motors (Charts, Fortune 500), provides a service that is included as standard equipment on most new GM vehicles.
Among other things, OnStar allows drivers, by pressing a button inside the car, to contact OnStar call center operators for help with things like driving directions or emergency services.
OnStar operators can also control some vehicle functions remotely - such as unlocking cars for drivers who lock their keys inside.
Because OnStar uses global positioning technology, operators can direct police to the location of a stolen car.
Stolen Vehicle Slowdown will take that function a step further by allowing OnStar operators to gradually slow down the car so that police can apprehend the driver without a risky high-speed chase.
Currently, OnStar receives about 8,400 requests each year to track stolen vehicles, according to the company.
To use the new feature, car owners must first report a car theft to police and then contact OnStar to request tracking. If the owner has not previously opted out of the service, OnStar will then report the location of the vehicle to police.
Once police have the vehicle in sight, officers will communicate with OnStar to make sure they are following the correct vehicle. To help make that determination, an OnStar operator would, for instance, make the vehicle's lights flash.
Police could then request that OnStar slow - and eventually stop - the car by remotely curtailing the flow of fuel to the engine.
"We look forward to having technologies like Stolen Vehicle Slowdown available to aid our officers in apprehending suspected car thieves and keeping our officers, highways and citizens safe," said David Hiller, national vice president of the Fraternal Order of Police, in an OnStar announcement.
Stolen Vehicle Slowdown will be included as part of OnStar's Safe & Sound plan, the least expensive level of service offered. After the first year, during which the service is free in most new GM vehicles, Safe & Sound costs $18.95 a month or $199 a year.