DETROIT -- General Motors quietly rolled out a new connected-car technology last month that it says has the potential to dramatically reduce vehicle-stopping breakdowns.
The technology, called Proactive Alerts, uses a combination of sensors and software to monitor the performance of three critical components -- the battery, starter and fuel pump -- each time the car is started.
When the performance of those parts begins to deteriorate, General Motors can warn drivers via its OnStar telematics service that they need to take their vehicle in for service.
The system, under development for about 10 years, is similar to what is used on some commercial jetliners.
Proactive Alerts, which went live on April 19 with little fanfare, is available as an option on nine 2016 GM vehicles: the Cadillac Escalade, GMC Sierra, Yukon and Terrain and Chevrolet Silverado, Tah-oe, Suburban, Corvette and Equinox. It will eventually be expanded to cover GM's entire lineup, said GM spokesman Alan Adler.
The service is free and comes as part of the OnStar package. But buyers must request the service. The data collected at each vehicle start is sent to GM through the vehicle's cellular communications portal and is checked against established benchmarks.
For example, if a battery develops an internal issue, such as a short circuit, or a fuel pump is delivering an improper amount of fuel to the engine, the driver will be notified via OnStar, said Steve Holland, chief technologist for vehicle health management. They will be advised to take the vehicle to a dealer for service.
Proactive Alerts is optional, and GM won't take information from a vehicle without a customer's permission, Holland said. The goal, he added, is to stay one step ahead of the check engine light and save the customer's time. When a vehicle under warranty is taken to the dealership because Proactive Alerts has detected a problem, the dealership does not have to run diagnostics on it and is empowered to change the faulty part.
Holland said GM plans to expand Proactive Alerts to cover other components, such as the alternator and other highly electrified parts, but he gave no timetable.