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GM heralds post-theft switch-off

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General Motors is prepping a carjack buster that gradually slows stolen cars to a halt by turning down engine power.

The technology, dubbed Stolen Vehicle Slowdown, can allow General Motors' OnStar advisors, working with law enforcement officers, to send a signal to a stolen vehicle that reduces engine power. When police reach the car and judge it can be safely stopped without causing an obstruction, they can ask OnStar officials to switch the engine off.

The thief may be warned though a motor's radio speakers to pull over and surrender the vehicle because police are on his tail, AP reports. The car's emergency lights will flash as the warning is issued.

GM will include the technology as a voluntary add-on starting with 20 of its 2009 models - about 1.7 million vehicles. T

GM's carjack-buster builds on OnStar's global positioning system-based service, which is credited with helping to find 700-800 stolen cars in the US a month. That service, which has an estimated five million subscribers, also enables drivers to call for assistance if they get into trouble. OnStar operators will contact the driver of the vehicle if sensors discover a crash. OnStar costs from $16.95 a month. When it goes live, the stolen-vehicle slowdown function, will come with even basic forms of the service.

GM is promoting the service as a way to cut the 300 deaths arising every year from police car chases in the US. OnStar president Chet Huber said GM is willing to license the technology to other car manufacturers to help bring the numbers down.

Other suppliers, such as LoJack, sell technology capable of tracking stolen vehicles but the ability to force stolen motors to a halt is something of an innovation. Better still, of course would be technology that made a stolen car impossible to start.

The major downside of the technology is that anybody who cracks or games the system might be able to remotely shut down vehicles, inconveniencing not just their owners but anyone else who's using the same stretch of road. ®

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