Earlier this month, General Motors hinted at a partnership with a major tech company to fully overhaul their telematics system OnStar. While OnStar CEO Chris Preuss was tight-lipped about who that partner was, Motor Trend has just reported it's Google. If the rumor's true, GM will make the Chevy Volt the first Android-based vehicle to hit the road.
GM first made wind of its plans for a Volt and smart-phone pair-up when it unveiled the Chevy Volt OnStar app for Android, iPhone and Blackberry devices in January. Not only can you start the car from the app, it tells you if the Volt is plugged in or not and whether it's charging at 120V or 240V. Charging can also be scheduled via the app to benefit from off-peak rates.
Traditional OnStar features are included such as door locking and unlocking, and remote access to the horn and lights.
But having the next-gen version of OnStar be Android-based unlocks opportunities beyond that of just your smart-phone. Not just for GM and Google...but for any automaker interested in on-board tech. An open-source cross-platform system could easily be extended to automakers like Th!nk or ZAP motors. Considering Google's cofounders are heavily invested in Tesla Motors, it's not that far fetched.
Android-based apps, that are vehicle agnostic, would allow drivers to share information about their cars and more importantly build communities. Instead of information being limited to only Volt drivers, that data would be accessible to anyone. Private residences could easily notify other EV owners if their home charging station is available for use.
Photo: Michael Graham Richard
Google services like Google Voice could be tweaked for a whole new range of product integration. Something Google is already taking baby steps towards. Last year they updated their mobile mapping software for in-car use. Android phones now recognize when they are on a dashboard thereby switching to a voice-activated mode for turn-by-turn directions.
It would be a big, but much needed, move for GM considering how lackluster OnStar is. Most of its functionality only comes into play when things start to suck like your car has been stolen. In comparison, Ford's Sync--powered by Microsoft--has gotten a lot of praise because users can enjoy it while they're driving the car, not the thief. Sync connects your car to mobile phones, MP3 players and other devices using voice commands.
OnStar will make an official announcement next week according to their Facebook page. Let's just hope it doesn't involve Batman.
OnStar has confirmed that they are in fact officially working with Google to beef up OnStar's mobile app and their eNav service. Earth2Tech has a nice video showing off the integration but you can see it up close if you are attending the Google I/O conference May 19-20 here in San Francisco.