OnStar has worked in tandem with law-enforcement agencies for years to recover more than 60,000 stolen vehicles.
Its Stolen Vehicle Slowdown feature, for instance, snuffs out high-speed chases by sending a signal to disable the accelerator -- with the braking and steering intact -- so a vehicle can be pulled to the side of the road safely.
Stolen Vehicle Slowdown was born after law-enforcement agencies approached OnStar about developing a system that would halt high-speed pursuits.
OnStar teamed with the Detroit Police Department this year to streamline the verification process once an owner reports a stolen vehicle. Traditionally, a person would have to contact authorities to obtain a theft report and then call OnStar with the report information to initiate tracking.
Now, OnStar and patrol units can home in on a vehicle just moments after it is reported stolen, instead of hours later.
Victims tell dispatchers to notify OnStar, which commences tracking and immediately relays information to patrol units on the ground, said Sgt. Vernal Newson, commanding officer of the Detroit PD's commercial auto theft unit.
Newson said telematics data have been useful in situations outside the stolen vehicle sphere, including assaults, robberies and missing-child cases.
Newson said he understands there are privacy fears stemming from vehicle telematics.
"There are some concerns," Newson said. "You have to consider yourself: Is it worth it to expose that little bit of information?"