OnStar pushes safety in technology

As General Motors closes in on producing its 2 millionth vehicle with OnStar, public safety experts are studying a next-generation crash notification system.

In an interview with Special Correspondent Lillie Guyer, OnStar Vice President of Public Policy William Ball discusses the GM telematics subsidiary's role in developing safety technology.

When can we expect to see advanced automatic crash notification features that groups such as ComCARE Alliance advocate be adopted on vehicles?

We do expect that in the future, the systems will provide additional information to the call center to provide to the emergency response system. GM has not said anything about details on timing and price. At this point, we're developing the technology.

When will we see OnStar and automatic crash notification-type features brought down to the smaller car level, where people need it, too?

We're bringing it into more vehicles, and we're educating the public. We're going through different generations, bringing cost of the hardware down.

As you do that, you can begin to provide the capability to penetrate parts of the market that are price-sensitive.

The technology was introduced in luxury vehicles, and GM followed a strategy of making it available on more and more of its production.

What have been some lessons learned at OnStar in the safety area?

You have to remember that GM has only had this capability since the 1997 model year.

We're only on about 2 million cars now. What you're going through now with technology is basically development, evolution and cost reduction.

What is your definition of telematics?

I've been struggling with this. My definition is the embedding of the telecommunications system into the electrical architecture of the vehicle. That allows OnStar to interact with the vehicle. That interactivity gives us the ability to do things like automatic airbag deployment notification.

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