On Jan. 27, along the 7200 block of South East End Avenue in Chicago, a rideshare driver was picking up three people when she said they all displayed guns and demanded her car.
The 36-year old driver was carjacked at gunpoint.
What the thieves didn’t know was that the stolen Chevy Cruze was equipped with OnStar, a system that can not only provide directions, but also slow the car to a stop -- remotely.
The offenders, all of them juveniles, fled on foot. They were arrested a short time later.
OnStar spokesperson Sherry Leveque said the GM system has 16 million subscribers in the US and Canada. Every month, she said, it receives 30 to 40 requests from law enforcement to slow stolen vehicles so the occupants can be taken into custody.
“We require an officer to be in the area and confirm they have the vehicle in sight,” Leveque said. Only then will the company send a signal through its satellite network to slow the vehicle down to an idle speed of three to five miles per hour. “Whoever is driving can still steer and brake,” she said.
OnStar is only available on GM vehicles, but other manufacturers offer software for their vehicles, like FordPass with vehicle tracking
Pastor Rich Redmond has seen the impact of carjackings on his community. He said OnStar on other vehicle shut-off systems can make people feel safer.
“It will make it easier for owners to make a safe and sensible decision,“ Redmond said. Knowing that they have this switch, Redmond said, will help drivers if they give up their car.
Another benefit of these systems, OnStar said, is that they can eliminate dangerous police chases of carjacking suspects.
“This is a great service to avoid high speed pursuits,” Leveque said, “and to avoid innocent bystanders from being injured or killed and especially keeping our first responders lives safe.”
While OnStar and other systems can’t prevent carjackings, they can help drivers make the decision to turn over their keys, knowing the car can be tracked or stopped after they are safe and away from the scene.