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Thursday, October 25

5 Amazing Car Security Systems

OnStar may have the strongest advertising presence of any car security solution on the market. GM has successfully telegraphed the unique benefits of OnStar in its commercial campaigns: Much like the advertisements for Broadview Home Security, which feature its operators standing by to assist homeowners who've been burglarized, OnStar ads commonly depict helpful operators contacting drivers after an accident. But how does OnStar work, exactly?
OnStar systems operate over a digital cellular network in the United States, and its customers can contact the service 24 hours a day with the push of a button in their cars. Lost on some country back road? Connect with an advisor, and he or she will give you turn-by-turn directions to get you home. That's one element of OnStar's "three-button system" for communication. With an accompanying plan or pre-paid package of minutes, OnStar also provides hands-free calling with the push of the second button. The third button places an emergency call directly to an OnStar "Advisor."
In a real emergency, such as a car crash, air bag sensors or other sensors built into an OnStar-equipped vehicle can automatically alert an operator to the condition and location of a vehicle, which OnStar then uses to direct emergency responders. But that's an awful lot about emergencies; when it comes to plain old security, OnStar's pretty impressive, too. OnStar can unlock your car if you lose your keys or honk your horn if you're lost in the vast sea of a parking deck; the system tracks stolen cars via GPS, and operators can block the ignition of newer models and remotely slow them down during high-speed chases.
OnStar is far more than just a security system -- it's more of a comprehensive service system, and its mobile apps for iPhone and Android make features like remote door unlocking even easier. Comprehensive comes with a cost, of course -- in OnStar's case, that means $199 a year for a basic "Safe & Sound" plan or $299 a year for the "Directions & Connections" plan, which adds in turn-by-turn navigation.

LoJack is one of the most famous examples of car security that uses radio tracking to hunt down and recover stolen vehicles. Most tracking devices share the same principal: Small transceivers are hidden somewhere inside the car and can be tracked by an outside source tuned to the proper frequency. Because GPS receivers require line-of-sight to an orbiting satellite to acquire a positioning fix, systems like the LoJack have the advantage of tracking cars in some places GPS will fail.
Due to close ties with law enforcement organizations, LoJack homing devices actually show up in police computer systems. LoJack units are tied to a car's unique Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), so when a car is reported stolen and the VIN is entered into the state police crime computer, that automatically triggers the LoJack Unit in the vehicle [source: Lojack].
And LoJack stands by its product with a 24-hour recovery guarantee. Basically, if your car is stolen and can't be found within 24 hours, you get your money back -- for the LoJack, anyway [source:Lojack]. The downside to LoJack's police partnership is that the recovery system is only good in certain countries in the United States -- and it's expensive. The basic version of LoJack costs $695, but owning one could potentially save you up to 35 percent on automobile insurance [source:Lojack].

Commando FM-870
Did your car come with a keychain pager, a small device that lets you lock or unlock your car doors from afar? They're a basic accessory for new cars and provide convenient ways to make sure your doors are always locked. The Commando FM-870 is a souped-up keychain pager. It can unlock car doors without a key and start the engine remotely from 2,500 feet (762 meters) away. The Commando includes a small device with an LCD display that monitors doors and trunks open/closed and can detect hard impacts to your vehicle [source:Commando].
Forced entry or engine startup will trigger an alert to the Command FM-870's LCD display. In addition to its remote start and keyless entry functions, the Commando component that's installed in the vehicle also includes a car alarm that can be programmed to trigger based on unauthorized vehicle access. The multi-function Commando FM-870 sells for $169.99 on Commando's Web site. The installation process for the Commando requires some manual wiring so make sure you or someone you know is capable of installing it before making a purchase.While the Commando FM-870's LCD-equipped remote helps it stand out from the crowd, it's far from the only multi-function security system on the market. 
CobraTrak 5
Cobra's ConraTrak 5 takes the benefits of several disparate Cobra security systems and bundles them together into one powerful system, which earned it a Category 5 placement in the Thatcham system, which means it must effectively help you recover the vehicle if it's stolen [source: Thatcham]. That means the CobraTrak 5 system, which Cobra calls one of its "top of range systems," features vehicle tracking that works in a very unique way.

An automatic driver recognition (ADR) system forms a link between your car and a card you carry on your person. If the card is outside the car, the ADR system is armed and instantly alerts Cobra's operating center if the car is moved. If a thief somehow makes off with your keys but doesn't grab the ADR card, they're toast: The ADR system will be aware that the card isn't in the vehicle with the car thief. Cobra can also initiate remote engine immobilization. Once a stolen car has been shut off, it won't turn on again. Coupled with GPS tracking, remote engine immobilization increases the chances that police will be able to find and recover a stolen vehicle [source:Cobra].
This is a high-end, pricey security system for car owners who live in Europe. Cobra charges £649 ($1,050) for the system, plus £199 ($322) for an annual monitoring fee [source:Cobra]. If that sounds too rich for your blood, check out our next form of car security. It may not come with GPS tracking or remote engine immobilization, but it will make it a whole lot harder for a carjacker to sell your stolen vehicle to an underground chop shop.

Nissan Vision 2015
The goal of Nissan's Vision 2015 project is to develop new car concepts and technologies through the year 2015. Some of those new technologies are aimed at reducing the deaths and injuries caused by motor vehicle accidents. One of Nissan's Vision 2015 concept cars embodies that goal to the fullest, integrating advanced technology into a car to prevent drunk driving accidents -- and drunk driving, period [].
Sensors in the car's seat and gearshift can detect alcohol through the driver's perspiration and prevent the vehicle from being driven. Additionally, a camera watches the driver's eyes. If it detects signs of drowsiness or drunkenness, the car issues a voice alert to the driver and tightens the seat belt as a wake-up call []. The car can even detect suspicious driving activity that could indicate someone falling asleep at the wheel -- drift out of the lane and the car may give you the same alert and seat belt tuck [].
While its futuristic concept car may not be hitting the highways just yet, Nissan's already incorporated a drunk driving message into its current navigation systems []. In another decade, Nissan's vision may be an everyday reality, and car security systems will be as good at keeping us safe from ourselves as they are preventing outside threats.


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