In future generations, the Hughes system will enable manufacturers to handle some recalls without requiring the customer to go to a dealership. Using the telematics system, the manufacturer could reprogram, or "reflash," the software of the component, such as an engine controller, to correct the problem.
Chrysler is reviewing an unnamed "tele-diagnostics" system in a small fleet of test vehicles. It is evolving its engineering processes to accommodate those devices, says Chrysler spokesman Nick Cappa. He says Chrysler has not determined whether remote recalls will be among the services Chrysler will choose.
Hughes also will offer remote emissions testing. Through its fleet management subsidiary Networkcar, Hughes is approved by the state of California to test vehicles using remote diagnostic data, Goldman says.
Another feature of the Hughes system is the "teen tracker." Using their home computer, parents can set geographic boundaries and speed limits for their driving children. If the child violates those rules, the parent can be notified by cell phone, text message or e-mail.
But some manufacturers are wary of privacy concerns because the system could be used to track other drivers in the household, such as a philandering spouse.
When you consider privacy implications, "not just legal but brand perception, you quickly find that these kinds of things don't look particularly attractive," says Chet Huber, president of OnStar.