OnStar Shuts Down Stolen Vehicle

By Terrapinzflyer · Oct 22, 2009 · ·
  1. Terrapinzflyer
    While this is not a drug related story thought it might be of interest. I seem to remember a case a while back of the OnStar communication system being used to eavesdrop on the vehicle in a mafia case as well.

    GM's OnStar feature slows stolen vehicle

    A 2009 Chevrolet Tahoe that was taken at gunpoint over the weekend in California – the brief chase ended when OnStar electronically disabled the vehicle's gas pedal after operators sent the vehicle several commands.

    The OnStar shut down likely helped keep the public safe by avoiding a high-speed pursuit.

    According to OnStar President Walt Dorfstatter, OnStar was able to successfully shut the vehicle down in 16 minutes -- once the Visalia, Calif., police received permission from Jose Ruiz, the car owner, with authorities contacting OnStar.

    "While this was the first time that we've used the Stolen Vehicle Slowdown service, we have used OnStar in several other cases to help locate and recover stolen vehicles. It's a valuable tool for our agency," Visalia Police Department Sergeant Steven Phillips said in a statement.*

    "In this case, it helped us not only, but also prevented a dangerous high-speed chase and allowed us to quickly apprehend a suspect. It's a win for everyone." 

    General Motors operates OnStar, and although it isn't available on all GM vehicles yet, it's a feature that the automaker hopes to roll out to all vehicles.*

    The automaker said 18 of 30 new 2010 vehicles are equipped with OnStar.* It's possible all GM vehicles will have OnStar in the next few years, but the company didn't outline a specific target date.

    If automakers are not able to shut down the car remotely, interested consumers can have GPS activated so the police have the ability to track a vehicle if stolen.*

    Automakers have attempted to work with law enforcement for innovative methods to limit the danger in high speed chases, including auto shut down and better tracking technologies.

    Michael Barkoviak - October 21, 2009 7:41 AM

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  1. everytingirie
    I know that for most people, OnStar is a fantastic service. It can greatly increase the safety and convenience of driving for the owner of the car. In instances like this, it is able to prevent a deadly high speed chase. This isn't the first time I've heard similar stories, and I know that OnStar uses similar situations as an advertising point for their service. It's nice to know that if one is involved in an automobile accident, the GPS will allow the emergency services to find the victims as quickly as possible. Likewise, criminals could be easily apprehended. I understand that one can even ask OnStar for driving directions and it will send them to your car's onboard navigation computer.

    While there are countless benefits to the service, I feel somewhat uncomfortable about the ability of employees of OnStar's ability to track my vehicle. This seems to me to be an invasion of privacy. I am certainly happy to know that when I am driving through the country in my car, no one has any idea where I am (unless I tell them, of course.) Maybe I have no practical, pragmatic reason holding this belief. I just value my privacy, regardless of the reason or whether there even is a reason. I can safely say that if I ever purchase a General Motors automobile, it will have its GPS functionality disabled as quickly as possible.

    This isn't the only area of my life where I have this concern. I'm equally uneasy about the GPS capability of modern cell phones and the capability of law enforcement officials and others to track my phone's location. It just makes me uneasy. Go away big brother.
  2. old hippie 56
  3. everytingirie
    Ah yes, I should have been more clear. It's not the actual GPS receiver itself that worries me, since doesn't have a way of reporting my location to others. It is the coupling of the GPS receiver with communications equipment, as is seen in cell phones, OnStar, and the related black box devices. There's starting to be a huge increase in the number vehicle tracking products that are available for a low initial investment and low monthly prices. It seem as though parents could begin to install these in their children's vehicles to track them. Or into the vehicle of the old person who is showing signs of dementia (who shouldn't be driving anyway.) Or into the vehicle of your employee.

    What if these sort of black box tracking devices were placed into rented vehicles? It could perhaps be justified by the car companies as a way of inventory control. While I doubt this would every fly in today's world, who knows what is to come in the future. It certainly does scare me.
  4. Terrapinzflyer
    Actually it does. One of the features of onstar is it can report your location to emergency officials in the event of a crash- in other words it can pinpoint your location.
  5. Frond
    It will fly through apathy and lack of publicity. Nobody cares, and the few people that do usually aren't listened to. Black boxes in cars is just the start, soon it will be surveillance in every single bit of information that ever leaves a cellphone, computer, or any device that communicates with anything else, if, indeed, this isn't happening already.

    Ubiquitous surveillance and law enforcement is coming. Part of the uproar due to the drug war is - I think - a conflict between ever improving surveillance/law enforcement technology and obsolescence of the laws. Laws that were put into place injustly, for personal profit, thinly disguised power plays, or misguided idealism could not affect the lawmaking population (i.e. middle and upper class white America) when these laws could not be enforced with regularity. They affected minority groups and impoverished underclasses but let get real here, who in DC actually cared? And who in the lawmaking population actually heard of it in any terms other than pro-prohibition? Damn junkies! Lock'em all up and make the streets safe for our children!

    But today, when every cell phone conversation can be monitored, when every bit of information that leaves a computer can be read, a literal interpretation of these laws is starting to affect the very population that held up said laws in the first place, and lo and behold, we have a scandal on our hands.

    Something's gotta give. Either limit law enforcement technology or repeal laws and scale back legislature to a bare minimum that the majority would not mind being ubiquitously enforced. The first is unlikely, so it has to be the latter, and something like this is already starting to happen, but lots and lots of people will be victimized in the process - and they will be part of a visible social class, on top of all of the people of the invisible underclasses that have been silent unknown victims of the drug war ever since it started.

    I suppose there is some irony in that. Hypocrisy started this mess and hypocrisy will finish it. But at least the ends will be good, whatever the means.

    Yay, another rant :applause:
  6. everytingirie
    In my next sentence, I mention this:

    You may know this already, but I'll include it anyway for the sake of informing others. Global positioning devices in their most simplistic form work by receiving and interpreting data from the 24-32 satellites that are in orbit around Earth. The satellite sends out data including the satellite's exact location in orbit, the exact time it was sent, and information about the accuracy of the transmission and related data. When the GPS receiver picks up the radio waves of a few containing this data, it uses the coordinates and times to precisely trilaterate its own location.

    In the case of vehicles equipped with OnStar, the coordinates output by the GPS receiver are transmitted via terrestrial wireless networks to OnStar. At a local retailer the other night, I noticed a kit one could purchase for a couple hundred dollars that appeared to use very similar technology, except in its case, the coordinates were interpreted and posted on the service provider's website in the form of maps and travel logs. The data also includes the speed that is calculated by the GPS receiver's computer and other data.
  7. Terrapinzflyer
  8. old hippie 56
    According to ZDNet, Rental cars are being implemented with GPS which brings up many more ethical issues regarding privacy. Rental car companies have used GPS devices since the mid-1990s, installing systems to give drivers directions while they're on the road. "Fleet management" companies such as AirIQ and Fleetrack are also selling newer tracking services that help companies monitor their vehicles.

    For more info on this subject, here is a good site: http://ethics.csc.ncsu.edu/privacy/gps/index.php
  9. Terrapinzflyer
    @ old_hippie

    a friend of the turtles actually had to pay a rental company an extra $250 when he returned the car because their computers showed he had driven more then 10 mph over the speed limit. Don't remember which company- but the fine and statement of such tracking was in the fine print of the rental agreement...
  10. kailey_elise
    That is seriously fucked up. The implications of that (that the vehicle knew where you were, what the speed limit was there & what your speed was at the time that you were 'there')...are staggering.


    *is suddenly pleased her methods of transportation are usually public bus or her own two feet...*

    ~Kailey, who's now seriously considering throwaway cellphones with replacement every month or two, just because she likes her privacy...
  11. old hippie 56
    Ya'll ever noticed them white domes on the roofs the big rig trucks? GPS locators, the dispatchers know where they are at all times. It logs speed, time idling, fuel usage. It is also used for relaying messages to the drivers. I does comes in handy for fleet management on that level, but for private vehicles it seems like a breach of privacy. It makes me glad that my truck is old and don't have one.
  12. Frond
    Welcome to the future. Or today. Whatever.

    More on speed limits, and my previous point about improving enforcement technology highlighting inadequacy in the law: the only reason why speed limits from the 70s have lasted so far is that enforcement technology has been lagging behind people's ability to evade it and speed to their heart's content. Seriously, who doesn't exceed the limit by 10mph or more on a daily basis simply based on not paying enough attention? And I don't buy the whole "I never speed" excuse, if you're doing 46 in a 45, perfectly reasonable given how inaccurate most speedometers are, and the limit changes to 35 but you are still at 46 for a few hundred feet before you slow down, you're speeding by more than 10mph. Circumstances don't matter to an automated system. With ubiquitous law enforcement in hand, you'll get a fine every time.

    Speed limits are completely out of touch with reality in most places. This will also come into bright focus as people start being penalized more and more from ever increasing enforcement effectiveness. Then, speed limits will be re-evaluated and be more realistic.
  13. fuzelogic
    SWIM's truck every couple of years needs to be "checked" by the state to make sure it's not releasing too much carbon dioxide into the air.

    This procedure can be done in 30 seconds by "plugging" into the trucks computer system and the State downloads the data. SWIM is already curious what else is included in this inspection.

    It's really scary when reading the other SWIMMERS comments because it seems like the state can then have access to the black box data when the state is soooo concerned about reducing the pollution in the environment and forces the drivers to comply with their tests!
  14. everytingirie
    It's quite scary that the state downloads the black box data on some people's vehicles, all in the name of the environment. Regardless of the purpose, this is a definite violation of one's civil rights. It begs the question: at what point is the big picture important enough to justify invasive means? Does the end justify the means? And to what extent can we violate individuals' privacy? Does it even help?

    Oftentimes, we are drawn towards taking a pragmatic view when addressing these kinds of issues. For instance, one who supports environmental conservation may support a bill that he or she is uneasy with, that perhaps invades his civil liberties, or otherwise inconveniences him by making him alter his way of life. He may feel as though it is a good idea to support the measure, since the end result is the same.

    The problem with this pragmaticism is that the legislation isn't passed with the proper intent in mind. This may not seem like a problem at first, in the future, say the same measures enacted at the time are primarily for other purposes, but also benefit the environment greatly. A few years down the line, changes occur that cause the same measure that benefited the environment years earlier to now damage the environment. Had the measure been passed for environmental reasons, the bill could be altered to reflect the changing conditions. Since it was created for reasons completely outside of those for which you supported the bill, nothing can be done except to enact new legislation.

    I, myself, am a bit of an environmentalist. I also hold political ideological views strongly in-line with that held by libertarians. I often feel torn between supporting legislation that protects the environment and opposing legislation that infringes upon my freedoms. There seems to be no best of both worlds, at least not with our current technology. It's all about finding the middle ground between these.

    In the case mentioned by fuzelogic, the middle ground means that the government can potentially track your movements (depending on what data the "black box" stores. And now that this solution is in place and effective, there is little reason to pursue new solutions that are void of infringements on civil liberties.
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