“If it ain't broke, don't fix it!"

Friday, May 30, 2008

OnStar Technology: In Hot Pursuit of Criminals

Telematics. In-Car Advertisements. Infotainment System. These are all available with the OnStar technology. Just when you think things can no longer get any better, OnStar pulled another one from up its sleeve – a tool that will help police officers catch criminals who are running away on a stolen vehicle, or any vehicle that has the OnStar system on it. It’s projected to be released by the end of the year, and is expected to be fully-functional by the start of next year.

Val Clifton reports for the
Houston Community Newspapers: Aimed at reducing car thefts and the high speed chases they can incur, OnStar has developed a device that can remotely decrease the speed of stolen vehicles.

The Stolen Vehicle Slowdown technology is an enhancement to OnStar’s existing Stolen Vehicle Location Assistance, which aids in more than 6,000 vehicle theft cases each year.

Emergency Service Line Manager Cathy McCormick said the SVS feature, which will be available later this year, was announced last October.

“For 2009, depending on the model, it will be a part of the “Safe and Sound” package, so it won’t be any additional cost for the customers,” McCormick said. “OnStar expects 1.6 million vehicles will be equipped with the technology next year.”

OnStar has been working with police for more than a decade, she said, sometimes as often as 700 times a month.

“The beauty of this particular technology is that it will allow them to get within view of the vehicle without the thief even knowing it,” McCormick said. “The tool can be used before a high speed pursuit can even be contemplated.”

Once OnStar has identified the vehicle’s location using its Global Positioning Satellite technology, it will work with police officers on the ground to confirm they have the correct vehicle in their sight.

OnStar can flash the lights of the car so that the officer can verify they are following the correct car. Once police have confirmed the scene is safe for a slowdown, the OnStar advisor can initiate one.

SVS can only be activated if the subscriber has filed a stolen vehicle report, and the police have a direct line of sight on the vehicle in question and have confirmed with OnStar that conditions are safe to activate a slowdown.

“It slows the vehicle, but the braking and steering will still work,” McCormick said. “The thieves will just think they are experiencing a mechanical malfunction.”

In 2007, more than 31,000 vehicle thefts occurred in Houston, according to OnStar data. Across the country, that figure numbers closer to 1.2 million with many thefts resulting in one of the 30,000 high-speed chases that occur yearly.

The National Traffic Safety Administration reports that these chases result in 12,000 incidents of property damage, 7,500 injuries and 300 fatalities each year.

Harris County Sheriff’s Lt. John Legg said that OnStar has been of assistance to law enforcement and that the department welcomes any tool that will aid them in dealing with auto thefts.

“It would appear that this new technology would be beneficial by way of preventing high speed pursuits for those vehicles in which this technology has been installed,” Legg said. “It does seem like it’s a promising advancement.”

If this pushes through, we’ll see less and less car thefts and police pursuits. Although it is pretty alarming how fast these technologies that allow other people to “mess” with our car is cropping up. I’ve recently heard about in-car advertisements and how advertisers can monitor your every move. It’s quite scary. But if for it’s a good reason, then I’m up for it. I wonder what OnStar can come up with next.