This is an edited extract from the speech given by Ric Waggoner at last week’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
If the clearest intersection between the automobile and consumer electronics used to be the radio, today it’s telematics, and in GM’s case, that means OnStar, the unquestioned leader in telematics today.
OnStar’s value to our customers is very clear: it provides safety, security, and “peace of mind” through a suite of OnStar-exclusive features, all of which can be accessed through a powerfully simple user interface.
On average, OnStar is now interacting with about 85,000 subscribers per day. In an average month, we respond to about 1,750 automatic crash notifications; 11,000 calls for emergency service and 35,000 roadside assistance calls, while “Good Samaritan” subscribers call for help on behalf of their fellow motorists about 6,000 times a month.
OnStar also handles about 29 million minutes of hands-free calling per month, and responds to about 800 stolen vehicle location requests. To date, OnStar has had more than 82 million subscriber interactions, one interaction about every two seconds.
OnStar has led to a number of unexpected benefits for GM, as well, like using the system’s diagnostics feature to validate our vehicles. It has also helped us to drive down warranty costs and has led to more than 400 GM patent applications so far. We have also learnt from the faster engineering and development cycles of the consumer electronics industry.
In fact, our OnStar technology platform is about to roll out its eighth generation in just 12 years. Our newest OnStar feature is what we call “Stolen Vehicle Slowdown,” which we’ll make available later this year on nearly 1.7 million 2009 model-year cars and trucks.
Stolen Vehicle Slowdown is an enhancement to OnStar’s Stolen Vehicle Location Assistance, which uses GPS technology to pinpoint the location of stolen vehicles, which we’ve done more than 30,000 times. Sometimes, when the police find the vehicle, the person who stole it is still in it, and, all too often, the situation ends tragically. In fact, there are about 30,000 police chases a year in the US, which lead to about 300 crash-related deaths.
At OnStar, we partnered with law enforcement to design an OnStar service that pinpoints the location of a stolen vehicle and provides that information to the police. Then, once the police have a clear line of sight of the stolen vehicle, they can request that OnStar send a signal to slow the vehicle down, which we do by gradually reducing power to the engine.
These applications, and a lot more, are possible, and not just in the US and Canada, where our primary focus has been to date, but around the world.
In November, we signed an agreement to bring OnStar to China, which represents a huge opportunity to offer the benefits of OnStar to a huge new audience. And I suspect China’s not the last place OnStar will be going.
In short, OnStar has been, and continues to be, more than a terrific business for GM, and our customers, it’s been a massive learning experience for us, and another great example of where and how the auto and electronics industries intersect today.
If OnStar and telematics are connecting cars to the outside world, then one of the next big developments in automotive electronics is connecting cars electronically with other cars.
In recent years, advances in electronics have allowed for technologies like anti-lock brakes, traction control, electronic stability control, and obstacle detection. We’re working our way up this advanced technology ladder to help our drivers avoid accidents and improve traffic flow. In fact, we’re now offering a Lane Departure Warning System and a blind-spot alert system on the 2008 Buick Lucerne and 2008 Cadillac STS and DTS.
We’re preparing to take it even further through the use of GPS and advanced transponder technology that we believe will revolutionize the driving experience. We call it V2V, or vehicle-to-vehicle communications.
V2V starts with collision avoidance and builds from there. And the key difference between V2V and sensor-based “vision” systems is in the electronic communications. Today’s vision systems send out a signal that determines the speed and location of the vehicle ahead of you, and directs your car accordingly.
It’s excellent technology, but these next-generation systems promise to be considerably better. They’ll be significantly less costly, but more importantly, they’ll use transponders to “talk” with other vehicles within a quarter mile of your vehicle.
So, if six cars ahead, somebody in a transponder-equipped vehicle steps on the brakes, in your lane or the lanes on either side of you, your transponder will immediately know that, and start slowing your car before you’re even aware you may need to stop.
This type of technology, unheard of 15 years ago, has the potential to minimize traffic jams and, more importantly, greatly reduce highway accidents and fatalities with minimal or possibly even no roadway infrastructure required.
And it’s progressing. this past November the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, sponsored a contest for “sophisticated autonomous vehicles.” We teamed up with Carnegie Mellon University, Caterpillar, Continental, and others to outfit and race the Chevy Tahoe “Boss,” which won the contest.
To put this in perspective, autonomous driving means that, some day, you could do your e-mail, eat breakfast, apply your make-up, read the newspaper and watch a video all while commuting to work.
It’s still a way off – perhaps 10 years – but the technology demonstrated by “Boss” and V2V represents the latest example of electronics driving big advances in autos.
There are currently no comments.