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Automakers Adding High-Tech Features Consumers Often Do Not Want

Millennials prove surprisingly tech-resistant.

by on Aug.26, 2015

Even Millennials seem to find little appeal in such high-tech features such as the new Apple CarPlay.

Virtually every Chevy that will roll off the assembly line next year will feature a built-in 4G LTE connectivity that can provide anyone in the car access to a mobile WiFi hotspot. General Motors’ OnStar unit, meanwhile, offers many of its customers access to a mobile concierge service – as do a number of competitors.

But a surprising number of owners don’t bother to use either of those features – which are among the most underutilized among a raft of high technology features and services automakers are building into their latest vehicles, according to a new study by J.D. Power and Associates.

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The 2015 Drive Report finds that 20% of recent new car buyers have not yet used half of the high-tech additions to their vehicles during the first three months of ownership.

But what may be the biggest surprise in the Drive Report is that supposedly tech-centric Millennials are proving particularly slow to embrace all the new features supposedly designed to attract them to today’s newest, highest-tech vehicles.


Supplier Claims Chrysler Hacking Problem Not Widespread

New security issue could leave OnStar-equipped cars vulnerable.

by on Aug.05, 2015

A YouTube video shows a hacker accessing a GM vehicle equipped with OnStar RemoteLink.

Infotainment systems supplier Harman International insists that a security issue that led to the recall of 1.4 million vehicles last month is limited to products sold by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

The problem was discovered by a pair of cybersecurity experts who used the vulnerability to take control of a Jeep Cherokee, at one point sending the vehicle skidding into a ditch. The revelation led to a recall by FCA and has triggered an investigation by federal regulators who have grown concerned about the threat hackers pose to increasingly high-tech automobiles.

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Separately, another security expert has posted a video on YouTube showing how he claims he can hack into General Motors’ OnStar technology.

“We do not believe this problem exists in any other car outside of Fiat Chrysler,” Harman Chief Executive Dinesh Paliwal says, referring to the security hole in some of the maker’s infotainment systems.


GM Goes Wireless – With a Little Help from Outside

Former Dell exec leads effort to add WiFi to new GM vehicles.

by on Jun.11, 2013

GM expects to significantly expand the services available to motorists, such as the new OnStar Family Link, when it builds 4G service into all its new vehicles.

It’s a connected world and for those who can’t stomach the idea of being out of touch even behind the wheel, General Motors has laid out an ambitious plan to integrate 4G WiFi service into every vehicle it builds by 2015.

To spearhead the plan, GM is reaching beyond its traditional comfort zone, turning to a tech veteran, rather than an automotive insider.  Mary Chan will not only oversee the 4G project but take over GM’s more than decade-old OnStar telematics service, as well.

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Chan joins GM in the newly created role of President, Global Connected Consumer. In this capacity she reports to Vice Chairman Stephen Girsky and has responsibility over the recently formed global Infotainment Business Unit as well as OnStar and the 4G initiative.


GM Makes Remote Start, Door Unlock App Standard

Basic OnStar features will come free in 2014.

by on Jun.05, 2013

Onstar's remote connected app, allowing features like remote start and remote door unlock, becomes standard in 2014.

Beginning with its 2014 models, consumers buying General Motors vehicles will be able to unlock doors, activate their horns and lights and even remotely start factory-equipped vehicles through the OnStar RemoteLink Mobile App.

Phil Abram, GM’s chief infotainment officer, said he new RemoteLink Key Fob Services program for OnStar-equipped  vehicles will become a standard feature – and fee-free for five years. It will be added to 2014 models sold in the U.S. by Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac.

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It is the broadest deployment of remote services offered through a mobile app by any auto manufacturer, GM claims – and underscores what has become a virtual war between manufacturers racing to outdo one another with infotainment systems – especially features that focus on safety and security.


OnStar Spreads its Wings at CES

New services, new markets part of GM telematics arm’s plans.

by on Jan.09, 2012

OnStar wants to connect users to the "cloud" for a variety of onboard services.

It’s already the biggest onboard telematics service in the U.S., but OnStar has far grander aspirations, with a variety of new concepts being unveiled at this week’s Consumer Electronics Show, in Las Vegas.

The General Motors subsidiary will be showing off a prototype Chevrolet Volt that can draw a variety of broadband services down from the “cloud,” while it is also revealing the first of what could be a long list of smartphone app-like services that it promises will offer some useful services to OnStar subscribers.

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“We’ll be using CES to show where the brand is and where it will be going forward,” says spokesman Vijay Iyer, part of the OnStar team in Sin City this week.

The pioneering telematics company also is preparing to expand its reach, hoping to target potential customers around the world – as well as motorists who don’t own a General Motors vehicle.


Facing Possible Government Inquiry, OnStar Drops “Big Brother” Plans

GM telematics unit will reverse plans to track drivers – even those that unsubscribe.

by on Sep.27, 2011

Most GM vehicles currently offer an initial, free subscription to the OnStar service.

Facing intense criticism from Capitol Hill and calls for a government investigation, General Motors’ OnStar division has dropped plans that would have allowed it to track detailed personal driving information about both current and former subscribers.

The telematics subsidiary had advised users that it was changing its Terms and Conditions to permit it to track a vehicle’s speed, location and other data including whether or not a motorist was wearing a seatbelt.  A driver who dropped OnStar would still be linked to the service unless specifically opting out.  And the company said it reserved the right to sell that information to third-party marketers or even government and law enforcement agencies.

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New York’s powerful Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer termed the move a “brazen” invasion of privacy and called for an investigation by the Federal Trade Commission.  Facing mounting criticism from other government and private quarters, OnStar said it has canceled its policy change and will not maintain a link to customers who quit the service.

“We realize that our proposed amendments did not satisfy our subscribers,” said OnStar President Linda Marshall in a prepared statement. “This is why we are leaving the decision in our customers’ hands. We listened, we responded and we hope to maintain the trust of our more than 6 million customers.”


OnStar’s “Brazen” Spying May Trigger Government Investigation

GM unit apologies for “confusion” caused by new policies.

by on Sep.26, 2011

Big Brother is watching you? OnStar's Command Center.

The possibility that General Motors’ telematics unit OnStar could spy on motorists – even after they stop subscribing to the service – has triggered a call for a government investigation by a leading U.S. senator who described the move as a “brazen” invasion of privacy.

A change made last week to OnStar’s Terms and Conditions will now only allow the service to not only track data such as mileage, speed and location of vehicles operated by current and former subscribers but also to sell that information to third parties. The GM subsidiary apologized over the weekend for any “confusion” it might have caused but said it intends to continue the practice.

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“By tracking drivers even after they’ve cancelled their service, OnStar is attempting one of the most brazen invasions of privacy in recent memory,” said New York Democrat Sen. Charles Schumer. “I urge OnStar to abandon this policy and for (the Federal Trade Commission) to immediately launch a full investigation to determine whether the company’s actions constitute an unfair trade practice.”


OnStar Under Fire for “Big Brother” Monitoring

Even after canceling subscription GM service retains right to track a vehicle.

by on Sep.22, 2011

Big Brother is calling?

A series of low-profile changes in the OnStar terms of service are generating a high level of anxiety among privacy advocates and others worried that the General Motors telematics service is turning itself into Big Brother.

The revisions mean that even after canceling service OnStar not only reserves the right to track a vehicle, collecting data such as speed and location, but also to sell that data to local governments, for example, or to companies that might want to use such information for targeted marketing.

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“Under our new Terms and Conditions, when a customer cancels service, we have informed customers that OnStar will maintain a two-way connection to their vehicle unless they ask us not to do so,” the company confirmed in a press release.


OnStar For Everyone?

A smart GM mirror for your Toyota?

by on Jan.05, 2011

OnStar President Chris Preuss shows a new "smart" rearview mirror that can be installed in non-GM vehicles -- and will be sold through Best Buy.

By the end of this month, about 69,000 General Motors customers will use OnStar to get into their locked cars, 10,000 will use the service to call for police or an ambulance, and as many as 3 million will use OnStar to map out a route.

Yet despite the fact that the GM subsidiary is “a major profit center,” according to a senior OnStar official, it has never really lived up to its potential – until now, anyway.  That’s something the company hopes to start changing with the launch of an assortment of new products and services that are being unveiled, this week, at the Consumer Electronics Show, in Las Vegas.

While OnStar makes plenty of money, and already has six million subscribers, “We need more growth,” acknowledges the subsidiary’s President Chris Preuss, who says he sees “substantial opportunities” to pitch OnStar services to those who aren’t buying a new General Motors car, truck or crossover.

During a CES preview, Preuss unveiled a new OnStar rearview mirror that offers Automatic Crash Response, Turn-by-Turn Navigation, Stolen Vehicle Location Assistance, one-button access to emergency and roadside services, and Bluetooth hands-free calling.  To show the versatility of the new system, it was previewed on a Toyota Camry.


GM Insists Virtual Key Smartphone App Will Be Bank Vault Tight

OnStar will have six user security measures to thwart hackers.

by on Jul.29, 2010

Could smartphone apps give hackers control of your car?

With automakers creating new smartphone apps that will allow motorists to remotely unlock their vehicles and even start them up, security is becoming a serious concern in the era of the hacker.  But when General Motors launches its new apps that turn a smartphone into a virtual key to operate its vehicles, the maker claims the program will come with a level of security that would make a banker blush.

Jeff Ravaf, a software developer in engineering at OnStar, said the smartphone apps, which OnStar announced last week, will have six layers of security on the user side, plus additional measures built into the system.

The apps will allow owners of Chevrolet, GMC, Buick and Cadillacs to use their smartphones through OnStar to unlock or lock their cars, remote start them and check such vitals as fuel level and tire pressure. The apps will work anywhere the phone can access the network, not just within a few hundred feet of the car like a traditional keyfob.

The free apps will be available for iPhone and Android (Blackberry will not be supported, at least initially) later this year, but users must be OnStar subscribers to use them.

Once they have downloaded the app, users will log in with a user name and password that they obtain from the OnStar Web site using their OnStar pin.

Each device that the vehicle owner wants to use to access the vehicle will have to be registered. A verification will be sent to the e-mail on file with OnStar to activate the device. Multiple devices will be allowed to operate multiple cars.

OnStar developed a custom keypad screen so passwords cannot be captured by hackers, Ravaf said.

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By default, the system is set to off, so the user has to manually check a box on the OnStar Web site to activate the service. Lastly, the phone works with OnStar’s computers which sends the signals the car.

“The phone doesn’t interact directly with the car,” Ravaf said.