January 26, 2001, 2:10 PM — THE EVOLUTION OF the automobile as a platform for technology is shifting into high gear as General Motors begins designing its cars around the OnStar system, rather than vice versa.
OnStar, based in Troy, Mich., is an in-vehicle safety, security, and information service that uses GPS (Global Positioning System) and cellular technology to connect the vehicle and driver to a remote OnStar Center, where advisors are available 24 hours a day to assist with anything from emergency situations to convenience requests.
In an interview at the 2001 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Chet Huber, the president of OnStar, a subsidiary of GM, said GM has begun engineering all of its cars to eventually have OnStar technology "organically embedded" in nearly every part of the vehicle.
"It was hard to conceive of doing that when we were more or less a very small percent of the vehicle build rate [within GM], because if OnStar was only in 2 to 3 percent of the vehicles, then why bother," Huber said.
But now, with OnStar shipping in every Cadillac and shipping in one of every four of GM's other car models, Huber said the time is right for GM engineers to begin thinking of OnStar as a priority in vehicle designs, before its deployment reaches 100 percent of the GM fleet.
"Ultimately, our vision is that every vehicle that comes out will have OnStar in it," Huber said, who added that if OnStar technology is the priority in a car's design, the benefits flow not only to the car buyer but also to the sales and service arms of GM.
"When you know you are tracking in that direction, you can really begin to harness the power of the other parts of your organization, to think about how can we transform something like the current vehicle service experience," Huber said.
"If the vehicle is designed knowing that it will have [OnStar], then every time you are about to take your car in for service, the dealership hits a button and at two in the morning they download your car's computer and are ready for the car when it comes in the next day. You'll have your parts teed up before you get there," Huber said.
Technological advances from OnStar, coupled with vehicle design, could one day eliminate the need for certain service work altogether, Huber said.
"In some cases, you'll be able to download a software patch that completely eliminates the need for the service experience," Huber said.
GM currently licenses OnStar technology to Lexus for use in its vehicles, and Honda will begin shipping OnStar-enabled cars in the second quarter of this year, according to Huber.