Stop Car Thief!

Technology is wonderful, and we are advancing by leaps and bounds every day.  Everything is becoming more connected, and in some cases, smarter.  For instance, are you aware that almost every modern vehicle is microprocessor controlled?  Computers inside the engine control everything from the fuel mixture to the airflow through the engine.

Other computer-based systems in your car can add features such as GPS navigation, or even connect you to a central monitoring station.  GM seems to have cornered the market on mobile assistance with it’s OnStar service.  OnStar is an in-vehicle system that allows the owner to report emergencies, get directions, make phone calls, and even remotely unlock your car doors.

Well, OnStar recently announced plans to add another feature to it’s service.  Dubbed “Stolen Vehicle Slowdown,” this new service allows police to remotely stop a stolen vehicle.  The service is supposed to start in 2009 with about 20 models.  Basically, when the police identify a stolen vehicle, they can have the OnStar technician automatically disable the vehicle, leaving the thief with control over the steering and brakes, only.  OnStar also mentions that they may issue a verbal warning to the would-be thief, prior to disabling the car.


But is this too much power?  What are the implications here?  OnStar is already a wireless system that allows remote unlocking of your car doors.  It reports back vehicle information to OnStar who can then warn you about impending vehicle problems.  Remote diagnostics can be run to determine the cause of a malfunction.  And now, remotely, the vehicle can be disabled?

As history has shown us, nothing is unhackable.  How long will it be until hackers identify a way around the OnStar security and find a way to disable vehicles at-will?  It will likely start as a joke, disabling vehicles on the highway, causing havoc with traffic, but in a relatively safe manner.  How about disabling the boss’s car?  But then someone will use this new power for evil.  Car jackers will start disabling cars to make it easier to steal them.  Criminals will disable vehicles so they can rob or harm the driver.

So how far is too far?  Is there any way to make services such as this safe?

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