GM On Board with Radical OnStar Plan

Dennis Faas's picture

In the world of computer technology, measures that put the brakes on a user without his or her permission are often tossed into the hated spyware heap. However, when it happens to a car thief, it's hard not to be a supporter.

Confused? Granted, the idea is a strange one. For years OnStar has been offering drivers directions, help in emergencies, and saving them embarassment after keys are locked in a vehicle. However, its latest idea, to gradually decrease the speed of a stolen vehicle, is getting some very positive reviews from everyone but the thieves themselves.

How do they do it?

OnStar calls the initiative Stolen Vehicle Slowdown (simple enough), and it works by transmitting a signal from the company's Detroit headquarters to a car's powertrain system. That signal tells the vehicle to reduce its flow of gasoline, ever so slowly (and carefully), cutting the speed of a thief's new ride. Any police in pursuit will obviously have a much easier time apprehending the suspect. (Source:

The plan could certainly do more than catch bad guys. It should save lives, preventing the senseless destruction often left in the wake of high-speed pursuits (sorry, Fox, Spike TV). The technology is set to debut in over a million and a half General Motors vehicles in 2009. Given the popularity of the concept, it wouldn't surprise anyone if Ford, Chrysler, or other car makers adopt the technology in coming years.

Just in case you're wondering, OnStar promises the service will only be used on stolen vehicles. "Safeguards will be in place to ensure that the correct vehicle is slowed down." (Source:

That's reassuring.

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