OnStar to automatically slow stolen vehicles

Stolen Vehicle Slowdown will allow police to remotely slow a stolen vehicle in pursuit, while allowing enough control for safety.

Will a new anti-theft tool from General Motors and OnStar be enough to make your car not worth the hassle of stealing?

The Stolen Vehicle Slowdown, a new feature added to OnStar, takes away the ability to use a car's gas pedal, while allowing braking and steering controls to work.

OnStar, which already communicates with a car's engine through software , will now use that platform to bypass a driver's foot on the gas pedal and automatically slow down a car by preventing any further acceleration.

OnStar said it will only enable the service if a situation meets a "required criteria," such as a police request while pursuing a stolen vehicle, or if a child has accidentally been kidnapped by a person stealing what they assumed was an empty idling car.

Protocol for activating the service will require a car owner to first report the vehicle stolen to the police, then call OnStar and request the Stolen Vehicle Slowdown service be activated. OnStar will then use GPS-tracking to first locate the vehicle and give police a chance to get in its vicinity. Once police have reported the vehicle in sight and requested a slow-down, OnStar will activate a signal that causes a car's powertrain system to reduce engine power and ignore acceleration from the gas pedal.

"Safeguards will be in place to ensure that the correct vehicle in slowed down," OnStar said in a statement.

The new feature, which will be implemented in about 1.7 million of GM's 2009 model year vehicles, is an extension of OnStar's pre-existing Stolen Vehicle Location Assistance feature that first came out in 1996.

OnStar is also giving owners the choice to opt out of the service if they don't want it on their car.

OnStar currently receives about 700 requests to activate the Stolen Vehicle Location Assistance feature each month and has used it on over 28,000 cars since 1996, according to a company statement.

About the author

In a software-driven world, it's easy to forget about the nuts and bolts. Whether it's cars, robots, personal gadgetry or industrial machines, Candace Lombardi examines the moving parts that keep our world rotating. A journalist who divides her time between the United States and the United Kingdom, Lombardi has written about technology for the sites of The New York Times, CNET, USA Today, MSN, ZDNet, Silicon.com, and GameSpot. She is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not a current employee of CNET.

 

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