202ONSTAR: what you don't know
- Jun 22, 2002Hey everybody, here's my editorial on Onstar. Onstar, optional on Cadillacs
since 1996, standard equipment since 2001, is being touted as the invisible helper
no motorist should be without. For a few dollars a month, you have access to
an Onstar operator 24 hrs a day who can help you with trip routing, concierge
services, and roadside assistance. In addition to being a hands free cellular
phone system for your car, Onstar capabilities also include stolen vehicle tracking,
remote door unlocking, GPS navigation assistance, and remote engine malfunction
How is all this possible? The miracle of GPS satellite communications technology
makes all of this and much more possible. Every Onstar equipped car has a V.I.U
on board. (Vehicle Interface Unit) This V.I.U. is what links the Onstar satellite
to your vehicle computers. All your onboard computers communicate with each other
and with the V.I.U. over a dedicated Class II serial data circuit. The Onstar
satellite can track your vehicle and send commands to your vehicle utilizing
Now the dark side. What your dealer may not have told you, is that these helpful
Onstar satellites are actually owned and operated by the U.S Department of Defense.
That's right, the Federal Government. The Feds. The Fibbies. Now, unless your
mother is the director of the I.R.S., this fact alone should give you pause.
Let's imagine it's the year 2007. You're going through your mail and you find
an official looking envelope. You open it and read....
DEAR MOTORIST, THIS IS AN OFFICIAL FEDERAL CITATION. ACCORDING TO OUR RECORDS
OF YOUR VEHICLE DATA ARCHIVES, THE VEHICLE REGISTERED IN YOUR NAME, AND WITH
THE VIU STATION ID NUMBER 000765438 EXCEEDED THE POSTED LEGAL SPEED LIMIT ON
THE FOLLOWING OCCASION:
DATE- JUNE 12, 2007
TIME- 3:43:06 CDT
LOCATION- I70 eastbound,MILEPOST 79
run time: 21 minutes
coolant temp: 89 deg. C
cruise cont: on
gear selected: 4th
vehicle speed: 74 MPH
throttle position: 22%
mass air flow: 32g/s
ACCORDING TO THIS DATA, YOUR VEHICLE WAS TRAVELING 9 MPH IN EXCESS OF THE LEGAL
LIMIT. THE FINE FOR THIS VIOLATION IN YOUR STATE IS $85. PLEASE ENCLOSE YOUR
PAYMENT IN THE PROVIDED ENVELOPE AND MAIL WITHIN 7 DAYS. FAILURE TO DO SO WILL
Let's take our doomsday scenario a little further. Let's say you rip up your
"Official Citation" and throw it in the garbage while incoherently mumbling something
critical and unkind about speed limits and the people who invented them. Two
weeks later you get into your car on a Monday morning to do battle with the road
ragers, only to find out that when you turn the ignition key, nothing happens!
The dash lights up, the door chime works, the headlights come on, the radio even
works, but there's no response from the engine.
You call Cadillac Roadside Assistance and explain your situation to the helpful
operator. She asks for your name and verifies your vehicle identification number.
She then informs you that her computer screen is displaying the following message:
THE STARTING SYSTEM ON THIS VEHICLE HAS BEEN DISABLED DUE TO OPERATOR NON-COMPLIANCE.
PLEASE CONTACT THE VIOLATIONS BUREAU TO HAVE THIS SITUATION RESOLVED.
Are you starting to get the picture? The above scenario may not be realistic
today, but can it be far away? All the hardware is in place: your car is wired,
the satellites are orbiting, the call centers are fully staffed. The stage has
Before you renew your Onstar contract or sign on for the first time, ask yourself
Is that microphone in your headliner really your friend? Maybe you should have
that offshore tax haven conversation with your accountant at his office, not
in your car.
Do you really want your vehicle's exact location known 24 hrs a day by some
nameless, faceless bureaucrats working in an underground bunker somewhere relaying
their carefully gleaned data to any government agency that asks?
Do you really want a person who you can't see and who you don't know to be
able to unlock your doors at will without your knowledge?
How much is your personal privacy worth to you?
As our privacy and freedoms continue to be eroded in this age of cybercommunications
and progressive government control, let's make sure we don't make it any easier
than we need to for hackers, prying eyes, and government agencies to infiltrate
To put it all in a nutshell: Know where your V.I.U. fuse is, and be ready to
pull it if neccessary! Just thought you should know.
P.S. Got a question about your 1980-2002 Cadillac? Put the CadyyDaddy's 17 years
of experience to work for you! E-mail to rgward2000@...
P.P.S. Do you have this book? Cadillac: A Century of Excellence
No Cadillac enthusiast should be without this beautiful book! Click to