OnStar Adds High-Tech Tools To Predict Maintenance Needs & Offer Insurance Discounts

January 5, 2015

America's biggest auto event -- the North American International Auto Show, better known as the Detroit Auto Show -- kicks off in just a few days, but General Motors is getting a jump on the fun by announcing two upgrades to its onboard infotainment service, OnStar.

The first of those upgrades lets owners know which parts of their car are likely to need service next. The second provides feedback on driving habits and make it possible for owners to earn insurance discounts through Progressive.

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DIAGNOSTICS

If you're an OnStar subscriber, you already have access to a good bit of data about your car -- things like tire pressure, oil status, and more. You can access that data via the OnStar RemoteLink app on your smartphone or through a monthly email summary.

For the 2016 model year, OnStar will begin bypassing the smartphone, offering owners a simpler way to keep tabs on their vehicles' needs without having to crack open an app or wait for a monthly email. The app will still function, of course, but urgent notices can also be received via email, text message, and in-vehicle alerts.

What's more, 2016 GM models will be equipped with additional sensors, monitoring more areas of the car than before. This can help predict which parts of the vehicle will need service in the near future. At first, this technology will focus on the battery, the starter motor, and the fuel pump, though it will roll out to more parts of the vehicle in the future.

These diagnostics upgrades will debut on Chevrolet vehicles -- specifically, select 2016 Chevrolet Corvette, Equinox, Silverado, Suburban, and Tahoe models. Additional vehicles will join the lineup throughout the 2016 model year. 

DRIVER FEEDBACK

Other changes at OnStar are on a faster track. Beginning this summer, subscribers can opt in to a 90-day driving assessment, during which OnStar will analyze things like acceleration and braking rates. At the end of the assessment, OnStar will compare a driver's performance with averages from other participants and offer tips on how subscribers can improve their driving habits. OnStar will also give subscribers the option to share their data with Progressive Insurance, which could earn them discounts on auto insurance. 

Driving assessment tools will be available on some 2013 and 2014 GM models, most 2015 models, and all 2016 models. In its press release, GM is careful to repeat many, many times that the program is opt-in, so unless consumers choose to participate, OnStar won't monitor their driving habits.

OUR TAKE

We don't have much in the way of details about these two offerings at the moment, but both sound very on-trend.

Numerous third party manufacturers already make devices that provide diagnostic data similar to that offered by OnStar on 2016 vehicles. It only makes sense that OnStar would join the party, given how it's built into the vehicle.

As for the driver feedback offering, that seems like more of a coup for Progressive than OnStar. However, it's in keeping with the general trend toward car connectivity (and, perhaps more insidiously, driver observation). If things keep moving in this direction, it'll be the rare driver who isn't being monitored by her insurance company.

For more on these developments, check out our colleagues at Motor Authority.

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