Visiting the OnStar command center

Matt Kelly, who is working for PodTech doing the very cool NextGear channel for us (all about technology used in automobiles), has been writing me all evening after hearing I bought a Saturn telling me that his tour of the OnStar command center was the highlight of his week at the Detroit Auto Show. On that page is an interview with Chet Huber, OnStar’s president.

OnStar is a service started by General Motors that is being built into tons of cars in North America now. All I have to do is hit a little button on my mirror and I am talking with an operator, who can do a variety of things for me, including that she can send navigation directions to my car stereo.

This is a mondo cool service and I’m so jealous of Matt cause he got to see inside how they manage all these calls.

Comments

  1. Sounds nifty but isn’t it also a spy in your car. GM knows everywhere you go, could probably listen to everything you say, know every time you speed. They could sell that data to you insurance company. Can you say higher rates.
    Big brother is watching. Wonder what the privacy policy is.

  2. Sounds nifty but isn’t it also a spy in your car. GM knows everywhere you go, could probably listen to everything you say, know every time you speed. They could sell that data to you insurance company. Can you say higher rates.
    Big brother is watching. Wonder what the privacy policy is.

  3. You know, Robert, just that sort of a contract might have been able to save James Kim… Reports said he didn’t have it… Merits serious thought as an option… It’s supposed to be able to track a stolen car, too…

  4. You know, Robert, just that sort of a contract might have been able to save James Kim… Reports said he didn’t have it… Merits serious thought as an option… It’s supposed to be able to track a stolen car, too…

  5. Another scenario, and this type of driver behavior and monitoring is already being done in truck fleets, I had a client that made the systems…
    You use second gear in your Saturn a little too often, you have transmission problems but hey, it’s under warranty so no problem. OnStar knowns about your driving and there’s that little flyspec gothic text in the warranty about “normal” driving conditions/techniques. Oooops, warranty void. Eeek, you pay :-(
    Obviously, I’m leary about OnStar ;-)

  6. Another scenario, and this type of driver behavior and monitoring is already being done in truck fleets, I had a client that made the systems…
    You use second gear in your Saturn a little too often, you have transmission problems but hey, it’s under warranty so no problem. OnStar knowns about your driving and there’s that little flyspec gothic text in the warranty about “normal” driving conditions/techniques. Oooops, warranty void. Eeek, you pay :-(
    Obviously, I’m leary about OnStar ;-)

  7. In spite of my being leary, it has positives also as James points out. GM tends to advertise the positives. My 82 year old father has it and OnStar has helped him find hotels/motels that he can stay at with his dog.

  8. In spite of my being leary, it has positives also as James points out. GM tends to advertise the positives. My 82 year old father has it and OnStar has helped him find hotels/motels that he can stay at with his dog.

  9. PXLated: yup, we’re in a world where corporations know everything about you and can use that knowledge against you. On the other hand, you get a lot more positives. If you’re ever sitting in a ditch, upside down after a wreck, I’m sure you won’t be thinking about whether or not OnStar saw you were speeding, but will appreciate having someone send you an ambulance.

  10. PXLated: yup, we’re in a world where corporations know everything about you and can use that knowledge against you. On the other hand, you get a lot more positives. If you’re ever sitting in a ditch, upside down after a wreck, I’m sure you won’t be thinking about whether or not OnStar saw you were speeding, but will appreciate having someone send you an ambulance.

  11. PXLated I had the opportunity to speak at great length with OnStar and they take privacy extremely seriously…obviously there’s a legal issue with it so I don’t think you have anything to fear. Give the podcast a listen–Chet Huber is the head of OnStar and we covered alot of areas, he’s very passionate about OnStar and the satisfaction of his customers.
    PX you also make note of another driving scenario about how you drive. OnStar has released a Vehicle Diagnostics that every month examines 160+ sensors in your car so it tells you what’s wrong with it if anything so you can be proactive to take it in for service before you get to any serious problems. Again though, they don’t do anythign that would cause you to be worried about Big Brother watching…listen to the podcast and see…

    And James, Chet and I discuss a scenario just like you indicated where a kidnapped woman was found alive under a blanket in her back seat after her mother called OnStar and they tracked her stolen vehicle and relayed the info to emergency and police personnel. A happy ending!

  12. PXLated I had the opportunity to speak at great length with OnStar and they take privacy extremely seriously…obviously there’s a legal issue with it so I don’t think you have anything to fear. Give the podcast a listen–Chet Huber is the head of OnStar and we covered alot of areas, he’s very passionate about OnStar and the satisfaction of his customers.
    PX you also make note of another driving scenario about how you drive. OnStar has released a Vehicle Diagnostics that every month examines 160+ sensors in your car so it tells you what’s wrong with it if anything so you can be proactive to take it in for service before you get to any serious problems. Again though, they don’t do anythign that would cause you to be worried about Big Brother watching…listen to the podcast and see…

    And James, Chet and I discuss a scenario just like you indicated where a kidnapped woman was found alive under a blanket in her back seat after her mother called OnStar and they tracked her stolen vehicle and relayed the info to emergency and police personnel. A happy ending!

  13. Glad you find OnStar so cool Robert – I bet you didn’t know it was originally created by a team of IBM researchers in the mid-1990s. You know, IBM – that $90 billion technology company that, because it’s not located in Silicon Valley, you barely think about. :) I’d love to take you through some more IBM innovations when you decide to come out to New York.

  14. Glad you find OnStar so cool Robert – I bet you didn’t know it was originally created by a team of IBM researchers in the mid-1990s. You know, IBM – that $90 billion technology company that, because it’s not located in Silicon Valley, you barely think about. :) I’d love to take you through some more IBM innovations when you decide to come out to New York.

  15. that matt kelly show is awesome.

    I only have one small problem with it: sometimes the camera is focused on the person who is talking more often than the car being demonstrated (this can be kinda annoying when she is describing an awesome feature of the car, but we can’t see it because the camera is focused on her).

  16. that matt kelly show is awesome.

    I only have one small problem with it: sometimes the camera is focused on the person who is talking more often than the car being demonstrated (this can be kinda annoying when she is describing an awesome feature of the car, but we can’t see it because the camera is focused on her).

  17. OnStar can also be used to spy on you. I wonder if Matt saw THAT aspect of the system. I don’t trust it enough to have it in my car. Carry a spare key around your neck or in your wallet. Use a 3rd-party GPS system and you’re fine.
    The authorities have used OnStar to track people before. No thanks.

  18. OnStar can also be used to spy on you. I wonder if Matt saw THAT aspect of the system. I don’t trust it enough to have it in my car. Carry a spare key around your neck or in your wallet. Use a 3rd-party GPS system and you’re fine.
    The authorities have used OnStar to track people before. No thanks.

  19. Hadi-thanks for the feedback. I know what you mean–I was a little disappointed that our editor didn’t put in more of the b-roll we shot of the car (we shot tons of it.) The car is the star, not me or Jill or the interviewee….Peter–I’m curious what you m ean by “spying.” This would be considered a huge invasion of privacy and the company could be sued into oblivion, which obviously hasn’t happened. They take your privacy very seriously–just listen to Chet Huber in the podcast…http://www.podtech.net/home/technology/1926/onstars-10th-anniversary-chat-with-chet-huber

  20. Hadi-thanks for the feedback. I know what you mean–I was a little disappointed that our editor didn’t put in more of the b-roll we shot of the car (we shot tons of it.) The car is the star, not me or Jill or the interviewee….Peter–I’m curious what you m ean by “spying.” This would be considered a huge invasion of privacy and the company could be sued into oblivion, which obviously hasn’t happened. They take your privacy very seriously–just listen to Chet Huber in the podcast…http://www.podtech.net/home/technology/1926/onstars-10th-anniversary-chat-with-chet-huber

  21. Matt,

    OnStar has been used by the authorities to listen into the conversations of suspected bad guys. Despite the fact that they may need a court order to do this, I want no chance that any conversation I may be having in my car could be listened to. The technology IS there for this ability by authorities, and while I’m not a bad guy, I don’t like the fact that it CAN be done with or without a court order. My car is one of the few places I have privacy outside of my home.

    For example, I use Hushmail even though I have nothing whatsoever to hide. I just like my privacy and I’m entitled to have it. My buddies use Hushmail as well. If I didn’t use Linux, I would use the Hush IM app for secure IMs, but Linux affords me far more privacy than Windows or Mac ever could — and I don’t pay for it.

  22. Matt,

    OnStar has been used by the authorities to listen into the conversations of suspected bad guys. Despite the fact that they may need a court order to do this, I want no chance that any conversation I may be having in my car could be listened to. The technology IS there for this ability by authorities, and while I’m not a bad guy, I don’t like the fact that it CAN be done with or without a court order. My car is one of the few places I have privacy outside of my home.

    For example, I use Hushmail even though I have nothing whatsoever to hide. I just like my privacy and I’m entitled to have it. My buddies use Hushmail as well. If I didn’t use Linux, I would use the Hush IM app for secure IMs, but Linux affords me far more privacy than Windows or Mac ever could — and I don’t pay for it.

  23. I reluctantly agreed to the OnStar option on my current truck and am very pleased with it so far. My husband insisted on it because I travel long distances alone (and I get lost frequently) and he feels that I’m safer with it. My primary concern was privacy. It’s a bit unsettling to know that anyone could know where I am at all times or listen to me singing to myself. After the Kim family’s tragedy, I have concluded that the safety factor far out outweighs any privacy concerns. My life is far too boring for anyone to spy on me.

    I find it encouraging that law enforcement has used OnStar to track people. A few years ago, my neighbor was murdered in a bank robbery and the killers stole a vehicle equipped with OnStar when they fled. They were apprehended quickly because of this. If I’m ever running from the cops, I’ll remember to steal a Ford.

  24. I reluctantly agreed to the OnStar option on my current truck and am very pleased with it so far. My husband insisted on it because I travel long distances alone (and I get lost frequently) and he feels that I’m safer with it. My primary concern was privacy. It’s a bit unsettling to know that anyone could know where I am at all times or listen to me singing to myself. After the Kim family’s tragedy, I have concluded that the safety factor far out outweighs any privacy concerns. My life is far too boring for anyone to spy on me.

    I find it encouraging that law enforcement has used OnStar to track people. A few years ago, my neighbor was murdered in a bank robbery and the killers stole a vehicle equipped with OnStar when they fled. They were apprehended quickly because of this. If I’m ever running from the cops, I’ll remember to steal a Ford.

  25. Cheryl-what a great story. I was saddened to hear of the tragedy of your neighbor, yet heartened to hear of the outcome. Your husband is of the same mind as me…that is, I’d want to have this service for my loved ones. And hey, as long as you sing on key, who cares???? Just kidding…

  26. Cheryl-what a great story. I was saddened to hear of the tragedy of your neighbor, yet heartened to hear of the outcome. Your husband is of the same mind as me…that is, I’d want to have this service for my loved ones. And hey, as long as you sing on key, who cares???? Just kidding…

  27. Peter and Cheryl: I had the chance to forward your concerns to OnStar and they provided this feedback…

    The comments on privacy always happen when people are unfamiliar with OnStar and our privacy policy (http://www.onstar.com/us_english/jsp/privacy_policy.jsp). The funny thing is, with today’s technology, GPS is included now in many cell phones and other consumer devices (Check out this Jan. 16th article from San Jose Mercury News’ Therese Poletti “Phones with GPS a blessing, concern,” http://www.contracostatimes.com/mld/cctimes/business/16470301.htm). OnStar has neither the time nor the resources to track or listen into our subscribers’ phone conversations.

    -Matt

  28. Peter and Cheryl: I had the chance to forward your concerns to OnStar and they provided this feedback…

    The comments on privacy always happen when people are unfamiliar with OnStar and our privacy policy (http://www.onstar.com/us_english/jsp/privacy_policy.jsp). The funny thing is, with today’s technology, GPS is included now in many cell phones and other consumer devices (Check out this Jan. 16th article from San Jose Mercury News’ Therese Poletti “Phones with GPS a blessing, concern,” http://www.contracostatimes.com/mld/cctimes/business/16470301.htm). OnStar has neither the time nor the resources to track or listen into our subscribers’ phone conversations.

    -Matt

  29. And a follow up from OnStar about the Kim tragedy…

    Actually, CNET contacted us several times during the tragic ordeal with the Kim family to ask questions about our system capabilities. Unfortunately, the family did not have OnStar, and we would not want to speculate their outcome if they had had the system. OnStar does still need to have cell phone connectivity in order to communicate with our advisors. (See this CNET story that quote’s OnStar’s Steve Davis: http://news.com.com/Turning+cell+phones+into+lifelines/2100-1039_3-6140794.html)

    One thing I can mention, though, is Alan Taylor, Car and Driver radio (http://www.hfmus.com/HachetteUSA/Page.asp?Site=CarDriver&Page=Radio), actually happened to be in Oregon and took his OnStar-equipped vehicle around the same area where the Kim family was stranded. When his pushed the white OnStar phone button, it worked!

  30. And a follow up from OnStar about the Kim tragedy…

    Actually, CNET contacted us several times during the tragic ordeal with the Kim family to ask questions about our system capabilities. Unfortunately, the family did not have OnStar, and we would not want to speculate their outcome if they had had the system. OnStar does still need to have cell phone connectivity in order to communicate with our advisors. (See this CNET story that quote’s OnStar’s Steve Davis: http://news.com.com/Turning+cell+phones+into+lifelines/2100-1039_3-6140794.html)

    One thing I can mention, though, is Alan Taylor, Car and Driver radio (http://www.hfmus.com/HachetteUSA/Page.asp?Site=CarDriver&Page=Radio), actually happened to be in Oregon and took his OnStar-equipped vehicle around the same area where the Kim family was stranded. When his pushed the white OnStar phone button, it worked!

  31. I was playing around with my OnStar shortly after I got my car. I noticed when I get into my car and press the button OnStar know I am Mrs— and when my husband does the same OnStar knows he is Mr.—. This freaked me out a little so I had my friend get in the car and she was not addressed with a Mrs.— or Mr.— but a How can I help you today. WTF! Does Onstar have a camera in my car? What a serious invasion of privacy.

  32. I was playing around with my OnStar shortly after I got my car. I noticed when I get into my car and press the button OnStar know I am Mrs— and when my husband does the same OnStar knows he is Mr.—. This freaked me out a little so I had my friend get in the car and she was not addressed with a Mrs.— or Mr.— but a How can I help you today. WTF! Does Onstar have a camera in my car? What a serious invasion of privacy.