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Connected Cars @ CES

Chevy and OnStar Plus Smart Phone

Chevrolet and OnStar, the subscription-based service that allows subscribers to talk to a representative at anytime for anything from directions to making hotel reservations, is integrating its communication platform with your phone. In a brief tech demo, we got to see how the Motorola Droid (although any of today’s smart phones with downloadable applications will also work) can connect to the car via a 3G connection.

This communication allows for several rudimentary functions we’ve seen in the past, including locking and unlocking the car, starting it from a distance to warm up, and honking the horn. The first car to implement this connection is the Chevy Volt, due out later this year. The Volt's hybrid engine system can also be charged by plugging it directly into an electrical outlet.

Because charging can be expensive, another function of the phone application is to remotely start or stop the process. At peak hours, charging a vehicle can be costly, so now users can plug their cars in immediately after parking, and start charging when they choose. Statistics on charge levels and the drivable distance on the current charge are included in the application.

Notifications inform owners that the battery is low or fully charged, that the car requires service or repair, and other alerts. Whether or not alerts will be sent to your smart phone when the car's alarm goes off has not yet been announced, although OnStar vehicles are all traceable.

Several features have intentionally been left out of the application, such as turning the engine off so users don’t accidentally stop the car when driving. Controls are fairly limited to the car’s internal components, although anything OnStar can remotely control can theoretically be controlled with the application.

The application will be free to all users who purchase the Chevy Volt, although, of course, registration is required to make it work with your specific vehicle.

  • liquidblue
    That application for the OnStar looks amazing. I hope there is some sort of intent to actually do that with any OnStar subscriber.
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  • jamezrp
    OnStar can do all the functions on your car that the phone allows (perhaps not the car charging since that's specific for the Volt), but all of the other functions should be available pretty soon for all OnStar-enabled vehicles.
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  • wmartindale
    Considering this article is about "Car Tech" and Verizon Mifi is mentioned... what about Autonet? I believe they attended CES this year. I know its a similar service, but their goal is to be statically installed in cars like OnStar is for its services. Where Mifi is limited to 5 users, I think Autonet is unlimited. $29 a month for 1GB data, $59 a month for 5GB to have a Wifi router service in your car.

    www.autonetmobile.com
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  • jamezrp
    Autonet currently has minimal true applications, as most people who drive don't really use Wi-Fi in the car since most drivers drive alone. Obviously, there is a reason to want Wi-Fi, but currently it isn't worth it for car companies to install in vehicles. Why it isn't even an option, I don't know, but the point of enabling Wi-Fi in Ford's vehicles isn't to actually connect to the internet, but rather through the car's intranet. That way, users could connect their phones or devices via the car's Wi-Fi instead of individually.
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  • wmartindale
    I agree that people who are driving don't particularly use Wifi and I get that Ford's approach is interesting. I was a little confused on how you described their method but I re-read the Ford article and it mentions the ability to use your phone's internet connection to pull data to the user interface in the car. Neat stuff. Autonet does have some positives to it though. Its cheap for browsing purposes. Mobile hotspot for $29 a month isn't bad. People that don't have 3G on their phone but do have Wifi can use this, or carry a laptop and have a need to get on the internet. Its capability to reach 100-150ft (according to their site). This would be useful in cases where you could be on a trip and multiple parties can get online from a hotel room, (definately not a hotel room in vegas, heh!) Or a restaurant. I am just thinking outside just the car here. Having a mobile hotspot has value. So with the multi-user in car, you also get it outside of the car.

    There are applications for Autonet in the marketplace. I believe it hasn't yet been realized. OnStar at one point was only an option with different car manufacturers. Autonet is currently is going through this phase.
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