New OnStar device will allow police to remotely stop stolen cars

by Patrick Healy

Law enforcement officers know all to well that the longer a high-speed pursuit goes on, the greater the risk of it ending badly.

Sometimes it's possible to end a pursuit with a so-called pit maneuver, or if it's known where the vehicle is going officers can put out a spike strip to flatten its tires.

Other times a pursuit is deemed so dangerous it is called off and the pursuee may get away.

But what if there were a remote control way simply to make a fleeing vehicle roll to a stop?

General Motors says it now has the technology to do that.

Starting next year GM's OnStar service will offer what GM calls "Stolen Vehicle Slowdown."

Edmunds' Inside Line Editor Scott Oldham says this may be the breakthrough application for OnStar's decade old satellite communication system.

So far it's been used mainly for directions and remote door unlocking.

That same satellite messaging can be used to tell the engine's electronic brain to stop a getaway.

Anticipating concerns, GM's announcement says this would be done only when the vehicle has been reported stolen, has been located with GPS, and law enforcement has it in sight.

"There is talk of the steering and the brakes still working, the police making sure the car is in a safe place to slow it down, so they seem to be aware of the possible negatives here and they are addressing them already," Oldham explained.