OnStar’s Proactive Alerts
Imagine having a vehicle that provided real-time diagnostic updates, including possible maintenance issues before they resulted in your car not starting? Rather than relying on listening for a rattle, a strange sound or simply hoping your vehicle doesn’t let you down, General Motors (GM) is introducing the industry’s first predictive technology with OnStar’s Predictive Alerts. Now, your vehicle will warn you about a potential maintenance need before it stops you in your tracks. OnStar’s latest technological feature is similar in concept to what’s on the Boeing 787, which alerts ground crews to parts and issues requiring inspection before the plane arrives. For GM drivers who opt-in to the service, OnStar Proactive Alerts will continually monitor the health of the vehicle’s starter motor, fuel pump and 12-volt battery. When anomalies are detected, OnStar will notify drivers to take their vehicle in for service, potentially reducing unexpected repairs. The alert service is currently available for OnStar subscribers who own a 2016 Chevy Silverado, Tahoe, Suburban, Corvette or Equinox, as well as select GMC and Cadillac models. Today’s connected cars are all firmly ensconced in the ecosystem called the Internet of Things. Our vehicles have become evermore connected to the Internet — gathering and making sense of massive amounts of data from an array of sources. Basically, our cars are talking to other cars, exchanging data and alerting drivers to all of the things taking place, mechanically and systems-wise. Knowing precisely when and what needs to be serviced on a vehicle is beneficial to both owners, as well as the operators who service those vehicles. Automotive telematics — at its most basic, the integrated use of telecommunications and informatics that permits the sending and receiving of information — is a connected-car technology that’s demonstrated its value, time and time again. Launched in 1995, OnStar is a wholly-owned subsidiary of GM. During that 20-year span, they have become a global pioneer in vehicle connectivity. Currently, they have more than 7 million subscribers around the world and are on four continents. Phil Colley, communications manager for OnStar and GM’s Global Connected Customer Experience, mentioned the advent of 4G LTE connectivity, available in all GM vehicles sold after 2015, has allowed the company to collect and utilize “anonymized” data that enhances the driving experience. “We represent two decades of connectivity, with OnStar being embedded in the infrastructure and design of our vehicles,” Colley said. “This is a key element in comparing our features with any aftermarket products that connect to the vehicle via the OBD-II port.” It was a little over a year ago that GM rolled out two new OnStar features ahead of the 2015 North American Auto Show in Detroit. The first was an upgrade utilizing big data and analytics giving owners the ability to know which item in their vehicle was likely to need service next. Additionally, OnStar also provides feedback on driving habits and makes it possible for their customers to anonymously share information with participating insurance companies, like Progressive, to qualify for discounts, via their Smart Driver program. For Chevrolet drivers who opt-in to the OnStar Proactive Alerts service, the service continually monitors the health of the vehicle’s main starting components: the starter motor, fuel pump and 12-volt battery. Proactive Alerts is offered with all OnStar service plans on eligible models, including the OnStar Basic Plan that comes standard for five years on new Chevrolet vehicles. In the future, plans are in place for Proactive Alerts to monitor additional vehicle components and expand to other Chevrolet models. “The system is sophisticated enough to distinguish between a low state of charge — which can be solved by going for a short drive — and high electrical resistance that could indicate the battery needs replacement,” Colley said. GM vehicles are equipped with additional sensors. These help predict which parts of the vehicle will need service in the near future. While the initial focus is targeting the starting components, plans are for including additional items in the future. “We’re looking at other elements in the vehicle to target, as well as introducing Proactive Alerts across the entire GM portfolio,” Colley added. Proactive Alerts gathers small batches of data each time the vehicle is started and monitors it on an ongoing basis. Then, sophisticated systems analyze and refine billions of pieces of data, accumulated across the fleet of vehicles. If the data indicates a particular vehicle’s component is not performing as expected, the system will automatically send the driver a message through an in-vehicle notification and either an email or text message, based on customer preference. This allows them to make an appointment at the dealership or their local service shop. Colley emphasized with increased competition from services like Verizon and its Hum telematics device — which services the aftermarket need to “smarten” non-GM vehicles that don’t have access to OnStar — it will be necessary for the company to continue to innovate and be responsive to customer needs. “When we started, OnStar was about air bag deployment and vehicle security,” Colley said. “Our overriding goal has been to make the service and our technology as comprehensive as possible.” Because connected cars and features like OnStar collect and sort large amounts of data, privacy advocates have expressed concerns about the ever-increasing connectivity of our vehicles and the information that continues to be gathered. Have our vehicles become stalkers on wheels, collecting information on their drivers that might be used for nefarious purposes? Colley emphasized that everything GM does in collecting information is anonymous. “We take privacy issues seriously. We view ourselves as good stewards of the information and data we collect,” he said. Colley mentioned that the initial response from customers has been positive. “While anecdotal, in talking to customers, they enjoy seeing the future — it also allows us to do a lot from a dealer perspective in terms of building relationships with vehicle owners,” he said. OnStar has evolved well beyond safety and security — still essential elements — to where they are now, a global leader in offering customers data-driven insights into a whole host of issues related to their vehicles, including awareness of impending maintenance issues long before they impact a vehicle owner’s ability to start and drive their vehicle. With Proactive Alerts, the industry’s first predictive technology, GM has enabled its vehicles to warn owners about a potential maintenance need before it occurs.