OnStar to Slow Thieves


General Motors and OnStar today unveiled and demonstrated a technology that could save hundreds of lives a year in high-speed police chases. What’s more, it will likely lower your insurance premiums and even decrease the chance that thieves may try to steal your car in the first place.

The system, which builds on OnStar’s Stolen Vehicle Location Assistance, uses GPS technology to help law-enforcement agencies to pinpoint the location of a particular vehicle once it’s been reported stolen. The new feature will also allow law enforcement officials, once they have the vehicle in their line of sight, to gradually reduce engine power in a subscriber’s stolen vehicle, completely avoiding the chance of a high-speed chase.


The so-called Stolen Vehicle Slowdown technology is currently at the prototype stage, but GM and OnStar demonstrated the technology in Washington , D.C. today and it will soon be available on 2009 model-year vehicles with the newest generation of OnStar services, called Generation 8.


The technology, especially after it’s phased in on a significant portion of the fleet, could save thousands of lives and finally help police get a handle on high-speed chases, most of which occur in stolen vehicles.


According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data, about 30,000 police chases occur in the U.S. annually, and more than 350 deaths occur as a direct result of the chases; more than 100 of those deaths typically are innocent bystanders. California alone averages about one fatality per week due to high-speed chases.


In the years following O.J. Simpson’s famed low-speed chase, high-speed chases have become a type of voyeuristic entertainment in America . In Southern California high-speed chases are often televised live, which some say perpetuates or encourages the behavior. Furthermore, there has been recent pressure on many police agencies to call off chases to avoid bystander deaths.


“We applaud innovations such as the kind GM is embracing that will make our roads better, our passengers more protected and our drivers safer,” said Nicole Nason, NHTSA Administrator.


GM plans to make the technology widely available, on nearly 1.7 million 2009 model-year vehicles; 60 percent of those vehicles will be Chevrolets. Company-sponsored research has shown that 95 percent of existing OnStar subscribers want the slowdown service, though customers would have the choice to opt out at any time.


The slowdown feature will for now be exclusive to GM models in the U.S. and Canada and will automatically be included in the one-year subscription that comes with eligible new vehicles. OnStar services now include Automatic Crash Notification, Remote Door Unlock, Turn-by-Turn Navigation, and Vehicle Diagnostics, in addition to the roadside assistance and hands-free calling features that have been offered with the system for several years.



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