OnStar Taps Verizon to Explore New Connectivity Features

By combining its telematics technology with Verizon’s upcoming 4G wireless network and six strategically placed onboard cameras, OnStar soon will be able to record damage being done to a parked vehicle.

James M. Amend, Senior Editor

January 5, 2011

3 Min Read
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WARREN, MI – OnStar, General Motors Co.’s electronic concierge service, wants to take the mystery out of those nicks, scrapes and dents that often appear on a vehicle after a trip to the grocery store or local mall.

By combining its telematics technology with an upcoming 4G wireless network from Verizon Communications Inc. and six strategically placed onboard cameras, OnStar soon will be able to record the impact of another vehicle.

The short video clip then will be sent to the “Internet cloud,” where the vehicle’s owner can retrieve it to identify the offending driver after receiving an alert from OnStar.

Typical cloud computing providers deliver common business applications over the Internet that are accessed from an online service or software, such as a Web browser. The software and data are stored on servers.

Owners with the option also can control the technology remotely through their smart phone.

The prototype application, which GM unveils with Verizon at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas later today, also makes possible new security features such as remote vehicle monitoring via a smart phone or personal computer.

The new technology has other applications as well.

These include monitoring items such as a home thermostat or lighting system; making a video call to another person using Skype; accessing real-time traffic images to avoid backups; calling up social networks such as Twitter through voice commands; or viewing a tutorial on any number of vehicle functions.

In-vehicle access to social media toughest challenge for industry since CAFE, OnStar President Chris Preuss says.

GM showed off the technology’s capabilities in a Buick LaCrosse at a sneak preview here, where OnStar President Chris Preuss says the auto maker has not decided which options it might make available.

Time-to-market also has not been determined, he says, citing the pace of Verizon’s new Wireless 4G LTE Mobile Broadband Network introduced in December.

The carrier bills the new network as the fastest in the U.S., with speeds as much 10 times better than current 3G networks. Verizon’s 4G network currently reaches one-third of Americans, the company says, and its nationwide rollout should be complete within three years.

Preuss calls the new Verizon technology one way for GM to take better advantage of OnStar, which the auto maker’s new executives have called one of its most underutilized assets.

Currently, about 41% of GM owners choose to retain the service after their first free year expires. That means about 6 million people pay $250 annually for its safety and security options, such as notification to emergency personnel of an airbag deployment or turn-by-turn navigation.

“Safety and security are what people pay for,” Preuss says, noting OnStar has much more under development in the space. “But we need more growth to plant our feet in the future.”

OnStar just introduced smart-phone application, so owners of the new Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric vehicle can monitor the car’s various functions. OnStar, which recently launched in China, as well, will roll out similar apps to each of GM’s vehicle divisions in the near future.

“We will continue to leverage the embedded telematics technology every way we can,” Preuss says.

OnStar intends to make technology innovations, such as its partnership with Verizon, as safe as possible during today’s growing epidemic of distracted driving, he adds.

Preuss admits some solutions will be difficult, calling in-vehicle access to social media “the toughest challenge for the auto industry since corporate average fuel economy.”

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