GM Lets Police Kill Engines of Stolen Cars
It's a bad day for fans of local California news: According to General Motors, the days of the high-speed auto chase may be numbered. Today, the manufacturer is showing of a new kill switch component of the OnStar service, which will be installed in 1.7 million 2009-model GM cars. The new function allows police to remotely kill the engine of a car involved in a high-speed chase, a feature GM hopes will reduce the estimated 400 deaths that occur annually due to dangerous police pursuits. According to GM, the driver of a suspected stolen car will first be notified by an OnStar technician that the vehicle is about to be turned off. When the switch is flipped, the brakes and power steering will continue to work.
This sounds great, but we see some potential problems. First, the system is only limited to vehicles whose owners pay the $16.95 per month to be an active OnStar subscriber. Secondly, the system is only limited to high-speed chases involving stolen cars. Police can only kill an engine by contacting OnStar, which in turn must contact the owner of the car for permission. So, it's no good if the suspect is running from the law inside of his own wheels.
That said, anything that can save even one life is OK in our book.
GM's new kill switch feature reminds us a lot of the bait cars Canadian police have been using for years to catch car thieves. A bait car is left parked on the street like any other car -- only a bait car is equipped with a hidden camera and a kill switch. Once stolen by an unwitting car jacker, the camera rolls and the police quietly pursue. After the camera has gathered enough evidence to convict the car thief in court, the cops remotely kill the engine and lock the bait car's doors, trapping the mouse in their mousetrap. The program has been so successful, the Canadian police's Municipal Provincial Auto Crime Team has its own Web site where you can watch videos of sucker after meth-addicted sucker get nabbed.
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