GM’s OnStar No.1 in China; envisions ‘Mobility Internet’

Article contributed to TN by Stephen Longden from SBD.

Six months after being launched, General Motors’ OnStar has become the largest in-vehicle communications provider in China with more than 29,000 subscribers.

This is the first OnStar operation outside of the U.S. and Canada since OnStar was formed in 1995. OnStar claims it is now a global leader in telematics with more than 5.6 million customers and 230 million customer interactions to-date.

OnStar President Chris Preuss made the announcement in China as part of the second “Drive to 2030” Sustainable Urban Mobility Forum at the SAIC-GM Pavilion at Expo 2010.

Toyota, Lexus, Nissan and Audi also offer telematics products in what is now a small private market, but is thought to offer great future sales potential. It is also the subject of a growing automotive safety debate that even has the Secretary General of the United Nations calling for action on distracted driving, a growing global menace.

The “Mobility Internet” is GM’s vision for a future of connected cars. It refers to the technologies that allow vehicles to collect, process and share enormous amounts of data by linking them to each other and to an urban network, much as the Internet links computers today.

The Mobility Internet will, in GM’s theory, enable vehicle users to connect to their social networks, creating social interaction while on the road, another, yet another, enabler to the growing Distracted Driving pandemic.

“Telephones and computers have evolved from desktop fixtures tethered by landlines to pocket-size devices that can go anywhere, anytime, connecting us wirelessly to the world via the Internet,” said John Du, director of GM’s China Science Lab. “Now it’s the automobile’s turn.”

Like laptop computers and cell phones, the connected car will offer a variety of convenience features while being able to sense what is around them, and communicate with other vehicles and the road system,” Du said.

The new venture is significant for GM in that it underscores the importance of the emerging Chinese market, now the world’s largest, as well as the need for GM to demonstrate it can expand sales and revenues so that it can pay back Canadian and U.S. taxpayer loans. In the U.S. plans range from $19 to $37 a month.

Shanghai General Motors (SGM) is providing one year of OnStar as standard equipment to customers with OnStar equipped new vehicles. The service will ultimately be available throughout mainland China in Mandarin Chinese. A question remains as to how many of the free users can be converted to monthly payers once the intro period expires.

As one of the building blocks of connectivity technology, OnStar is a significant player in the development of the Mobility Internet. It represents the best real-world application of Mobility Internet technologies in GM’s – less than unbiased – view.

Through the Global Positioning System (GPS) and wireless communication technologies, OnStar provides 14 services, including Automatic Crash Response, Emergency Services, Security Protection, Navigation System, Vehicle Diagnostics and Hands-Free Calling.

“More than 29,000 users have subscribed to OnStar service in China since its launch in December 2009,” Preuss said. “OnStar has surpassed all of its competitors and become the leading in-vehicle communication service provider in China, the world’s largest vehicle market. We expect OnStar to have nearly 200,000 users in China by the end of this year.”

Courtesy: The Detroit Bureau.

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