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OnStar, GM Offer Car Remote Slowdown

Detroit — OnStar will offer a new feature that will slow down a vehicle in the act of being stolen.

General Motors will offer the feature, called Stolen Vehicle Slowdown, on nearly 1.7 million of its 2009 model year vehicles, led by Chevrolet, which will account for 60 percent of the vehicles offering this new technology.

With Stolen Vehicle Slowdown, OnStar advisors work with law enforcement to send a signal to the stolen vehicle to reduce engine power and gradually slow it down. The service may also be used to reduce fatalities in police chases.

Under the system, the OnStar subscriber reports a vehicle theft to law enforcement and then calls OnStar to request Stolen Vehicle Slowdown. OnStar determines the location of the vehicle and provides the information to law enforcement. Once law enforcement has a clear line of sight to the stolen vehicle, OnStar will slow it down remotely.

OnStar said it receives about 700 stolen vehicle assistance requests per month and the company has helped with 28,000 requests over the past decade.

About 30,000 police chases occur annually, resulting in an estimated 300 deaths, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Analyst Phil Magney of TRG in Minnetonka, Minn., called the new service “a bold move.” He said, “It could potentially raise the issue of privacy, but with that said, it’s a natural evolution of telematics capability and OnStar is doing everything it can to minimize privacy concerns by allowing the owner of the car to opt out of the service … It then requires a service call to reactivate the feature.”

Magney says the service could be offered by the aftermarket in the future.

He added that this type of “remote telemetry” is the natural evolution of telematics and that other remote services may follow.