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(AOL Autos) -- With consumer credit ratings plummeting, more American car owners could soon be driving around with an electronic Big Brother on board.
Shut-off devices give audio and flashing light warnings before the vehicle's power is cut.
Business is booming for makers of shut-off devices, which turn engines off when car payments are late. Sales at one manufacturer, Littleton, Colorado-based Passtime, are up 33 percent over last year. CEO Stan Schwarz says the company is cranking up production to meet the demand.
"Right now, we are moving about 2,000 units a month into the marketplace," Schwarz says. "I fully expect by the end of the year we will be up to 14,000 to 15,000 a month,"
While the devices have mostly been used in the subprime auto loan market, other lenders are looking closely at the technology, manufacturers say. It's no mystery why interest in the gadgets soaring: the creditworthiness of American consumers is declining as they lose jobs in record numbers and find it harder to tap into home equity.
Originally posted by imd12c4funn
Besides, you never know. I may want to disable the thing if she's behind the wheel just out of principal.
Driving with her is the only time I feel true fear, and it is a very uncomfortable feeling. Lots of imaginary brakes, increased heart rate, sweating and prayers.
Starting 2009, General Motors will equip some new vehicles with Stolen Vehicle Slowdown. This allows police to remotely slow down the vehicle. The service is also expected to help reduce the risk of property damage, serious injuries or fatalities resulting from high-speed pursuits of stolen vehicles. Customers may opt out of that function.
Critics raise questions about whether police or others could make use of OnStar's tracking, whether legally or illegally, for surveillance or stalking. Privacy advocates worry that innocent citizens may be hassled by the authorities due to false alarms. At least one group, OnStar Privacy, has dedicated a website to privacy concerns of the service.
"The Truth About Cars" wrote that "OnStar's computer knows where you were, when you were there, and how fast you went. It knows if and when you applied the brakes, if and when the air bags deployed, and what speed you were going at the time. It knows if and when your car was serviced. OnStar operators can determine if you have a passenger in the front seat (airbag detection). ... under certain conditions, OnStar can switch on your GM car's microphone remotely and record any and all sounds within the vehicle (i.e. conversations)."
Concerns have also been raised about what could be done with the data collected and stored by a vehicle's MVEDR, which is analogous to the "black box" recorder on airplanes, although an MVEDR is not as sophisticated and does not currently function as a digital audio recorder. For example, privacy advocates worry that auto dealers could use data to suggest that the user engaged in reckless driving and therefore violated the terms of the vehicle’s warranty, or insurance companies could use said data as the basis for denying claims.
Voice-monitoring capability is marketed as OnStar Hands-Free Calling. The use of this type of capability by law enforcement is subject to legal debate and some technical impediments. OnStar maintains that it is unable to "listen to, view, or record the content of calls". However, a 2003 lawsuit revealed that systems such as OnStar can be used for eavesdropping on passenger conversations.
Originally posted by DocMoreau
I wonder if anyone here has ever though about GM's OnStar in that capacity. I have long thought that OnStar was crafted as a trojan horse in the event of a car repossesion. Even if you don't currently pay for OnStar, they could in theory activate it at their discretion.