TAMPA--Production will begin next month on General Motors vehicles that will include a remote-slowdown feature that is designed to prevent unnecessary high-speed chases in the event that the vehicle is stolen, officials for OnStar said yesterday during a demonstration of the capability.

Conducted in conjunction with the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) annual conference, the demonstration at Raymond James Stadium displayed the power of the stolen-vehicle-slowdown feature, which will be part of standard OnStar packages included in 2009 model year vehicles. After an OnStar-equipped vehicle is reported stolen to law-enforcement authorities, OnStar can remotely disable the vehicle’s ability to accelerate, allowing authorities to easily secure the idled car and perpetrator.

“It feels like you just ran out of gas, and it coasts to a stop,” said Fritz Beiermeister, OnStar’s executive director for business sales and marketing, noting that braking and steering mechanisms on the vehicle are not affected.

Beiermeister noted that OnStar has established procedures that must exist before the stolen-vehicle-slowdown feature is used. Law enforcement must confirm that the vehicle is considered stolen and be able to see that the car is in an area that is safe for such deceleration to occur.

High-speed chases involving stolen vehicles account for about 300 deaths per year, with most fatalities involving innocent bystanders, Beiermeister said.

Yesterday’s demonstration is part of an ongoing OnStar public-safety outreach program to inform first-responder organizations in the United States and Canada of the company’s capabilities. In addition to being able to locate and remotely slow down stolen vehicles, OnStar offers features such as remote unlock, crisis management, roadside assistance and hands-free calling that are designed to improve driver safety.

When emergency situations occur, personnel in OnStar’s three North American call centers frequently interact with call takers and dispatchers in 911 centers. Often, 911 operators simply want the location information of the incident, but OnStar can provide much more data that can be helpful to first responders, said George Baker, public-policy manager for OnStar.

For instance, in a crash, OnStar automatically receives information such as whether an air bag deployed, the direction of impact, whether there were multiple impacts, whether the vehicle rolled over and the vehicle’s velocity at impact, Baker said.

“That comes to you verbally currently, but the vision is to transmit it directly to you electronically,” Baker said.

This information can help first-response and medical personnel deal with the situation better, so Baker said 911 personnel should be encouraged to ask for it when receiving a call from OnStar. Similarly, OnStar is encouraging 911 operators to ask owners of stolen vehicles whether the vehicle is equipped with OnStar or another vehicle-location device that can help the search effort, he said.

Getting this information quickly is important, so OnStar can locate the vehicle before the perpetrator tries to damage the in-car system, Beiermeister said.

“The pros know how to disable just about anything, but it does take some time … and they typically don’t do it at the point of theft; they wait until they can get the vehicle to a place where they can work on it,” he said. “So, if we know about the car being stolen, we can get on it right away (to locate and possible slow down the vehicle).”