Ask The Best And Brightest: Is Onstar Worth The Spying?

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

GM’s Onstar EV Lab recently invited Autobloggreen in for a preview of some of the Volt’s unique Onstar options. The upshot is that the GM-exclusive system will reach new levels of invasiveness, monitoring battery charge and temperature levels, as well as providing charging information. But beyond these Volt-related systems, ABG also reveals that Onstar monitored current users as guinea pigs for developing Volt roll-out plans:

GM pulled real data from thousands of OnStar-equipped vehicles over the last week, and calculated what would have happened had they all been Volts. These vehicles were a representative sample, which in this case means the random drivers were selected from areas where GM expects initial interest in the Volt will be high. GM has previously said that it has its eye on “early adopter” cities like San Francisco and Washington, D.C. to sell the Volt at first, so the sample might have included drivers from these areas.

This is a new development in the discussion of whether Onstar crosses privacy lines in the pursuit of safety, and oh yeah, profits. Onstar would argue that complete access to your vehicle helps prevent things like carjackings (a mission it has now officially accomplished once). The downside is that GM is apparently allowed to spy on your vehicle use patterns at will. Oh, and apparently the computer voice recognition leaves something to be desired, for the rurally accented. Is the system worth the downsides?

Edward Niedermeyer
Edward Niedermeyer

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  • Greenb1ood Greenb1ood on Oct 22, 2009

    I for one look forward to the day when Google, Verizon, Microsoft, and AT&T rule the world through their extensive network of data collection used to blackmail every power broker into submission. Good times!

  • Ragnar danneskjold Ragnar danneskjold on Oct 22, 2009

    Giving Government Motors OnStar access is a recipe for disaster. The old Soviet bloc would have loved this technology!

  • Joeaverage Joeaverage on Oct 22, 2009

    They get too intrusive and I will simply have another reason not to buy a GM product. If the gov't mandates it then I'll go back to driving my 70s aircooled VW. No air pollution regs here - yet... I don't carry a cellphone and use cash now. No thanks. Not volunteering to be a well tracked consumer.

  • Steven02 Steven02 on Oct 22, 2009

    Before we get into the "What the Gov't might do" discussion, how about we just focus on what has been done. So please, take off the tin foil hats. OnStar service isn't bad, and most importantly, it is OPTIONAL. If you don't want it, you don't have to get it. If GM takes anonymous data to look at traffic patterns to plan for the Volt, I am not a fan of that, but it isn't the end of the world. Many companies collect a lot of anonymous data from computers (Mozilla Firefox and Google to name just 2). It happens. Anonymous data isn't the end of the world. Also, on the comments about it monitoring battery life, GM hasn't said how they will do this or if they will do this on production vehicles, read the article. It was done on test mules. You also need to realize that part of OnStar is vehicle diagnostics. Battery life and charge would seem to part of this when it is sending those emails off to people.