By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
OnStar showed a prototype of a new service at International CES that operates from the driver's cellular phone.
As yet unnamed, the service lets users remotely lock and unlock the doors of the car, remote start the vehicle, flash the parking lights and offers other concierge features directly from an icon interface on the user's cellular phone. In addition, the system can remotely run car diagnostics from the phone to check oil life and tire pressure, said the company. The system does not send out alerts for these features, but lets the user check these features remotely, as desired, from anywhere within his cellphone service range.
The feature was announced during a CES keynote presented by Rick Wagoner, chairman and CEO of General Motors. If a customer is at the airport and can't remember if he locked his doors, he can take out his cellphone and lock them from any distance, said Wagoner. "You'll see some announcements from us in that regard in the very near term," he added.
OnStar also said it will deliver its Stolen Vehicle Slowdown service, first shown last year, by mid-2008. The service can slow down a vehicle in the act of being stolen.
In such an event, the OnStar subscriber reports a vehicle theft to law enforcement and then calls OnStar to request Stolen Vehicle Slowdown. OnStar determines the location of the vehicle and provides the information to law enforcement. Once law enforcement has a clear line of sight to the stolen vehicle, OnStar will slow it down remotely, gradually reducing engine power. The service may also be used to reduce fatalities in police chases.
OnStar said it receives about 700 stolen vehicle assistance requests per month, and the company has helped with 28,000 requests over the past decade.
About 30,000 police chases occur annually, resulting in an estimated 300 deaths, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Stolen Vehicle Slowdown will be offered in 1.7 million of GM's 2009 model year vehicles, led by Chevrolet which will account for 60 percent of the vehicles offering this new technology.
Analyst Phil Magney of TRG in Minnetonka, Minn., said the service could be offered by the aftermarket in the future. He added that this type of "remote telemetry" is the natural evolution of telematics and that other remote services may follow. (See Car Shield story, p. 96.)
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