Auto Tech

OnStar has been helping recover stolen cars for over a decade

GM's telematics network is the OG of connected car tech.

General Motors

It's been over 20 years since General Motors launched its OnStar suite of connected vehicle services. Available on every GM car, OnStar can automatically send help if you've been in a crash, deliver a gallon of fuel to your car if you're stranded or deliver turn-by-turn directions even if you don't have embedded navigation.

GM might've gotten their first, but today, lots of other competing telematics services offer these features. But GM's OnStar still holds a trump card -- it can help police recover your vehicle in the event it gets stolen. That's right, while other automakers such as BMW , Honda and Toyota offer systems that just locate your missing car, OnStar can actively slow down the vehicle when a thief is behind the wheel. 

This tech isn't new -- in fact, it just celebrated its 10-year anniversary. All-in, OnStar is almost inarguably the first consumer connected car technology available at scale, and since connected car tech is seemingly on every automaker's lips these days, we thought we'd revisit where it all started.

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When you report a stolen car to both OnStar and the local authorities, GM uses GPS data to locate the vehicle. Once officers get a visual of the car, OnStar flashes the hazard lights and cuts power to the vehicle. The brakes and steering aren't affected, relying on the idea that the confused thief will pull over, exit the car, and get their comeuppance.

The least-expensive way to get this tech is with the $25-a-month Safety and Security Package. In addition to the stolen-vehicle locator and slow-down functionality, you get emergency services, roadside assistance, a "crisis assist" function (which can provide special routing in an emergency or during severe weather) and turn-by-turn navigation.

The only comparable system on the market today comes from Hyundai, built into its BlueLink interface.

OnStar's vehicle slowdown function is super handy and it prioritizes safety -- the safer the apprehension of the vehicle and thief, the better it is for everyone involved. And since GM says it slows down a stolen vehicle once every three or four days, it's a system that continues to pay dividends a decade after its inception.