True Potential? OnStar Updated With Fleet Management Service

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

With automotive connectivity kicking down the door to new sources of revenue, General Motors’ OnStar has already undergone a few changes since its debut in 1997 model-year Cadillacs. We’ve criticized some of the most recent ones, annoyed that GM is trying to utilize driving data to turn people into both master and slave. Last year, CEO Mary Barra said the automaker would expand into areas “that will generate revenue and profitability as we leverage the connectivity and then the ability to monetize data both in the vehicle and sharing it with other companies.”

While we can’t say we’re fond of her position, it’s likely to make the company heaps of cash. Tweaking automobiles to emit a constant stream of data back to headquarters does have its advantages, and businesses are, unsurprisingly, keen to capitalize on them. On Thursday, General Motors announced the launch of OnStar Vehicle Insights — a new telematics tool for fleet owners and operators.

The new management service seems cool, but the foundation it’s built upon might make you a bit uneasy. And it’s technically already inside your vehicle, assuming you own a GM product that’s less than five years old. You just have to pay to gain access.

“We listened to our fleet customers’ feedback and have created a turnkey telematics solution,” explained Ed Peper, VP of GM Fleet. “OnStar Vehicle Insights helps simplify the fleet management process, allowing our fleet customers, large and small, to save time and money.”

Customers pay $15.99 per vehicle, per month, to unlock OnStar Vehicle Insights. Once opened, managers have immediate access to real-time data — including the vehicle’s current location, maintenance info, and driver performance (e.g. if they were speeding). General Motors claims there will be a “simplified performance dashboard that aggregates data and presents trends business might find helpful.” That suggests Vehicle Insights may not be aimed at the biggest and baddest road-going armadas, but a tool better suited for moderately-sized fleets.

It sounds rather similar to the fleet management tool Ford Smart Mobility cooked up in 2018, offering a reminder that GM is probably skimming your personal data already. The company says Vehicle Insights uses embedded OnStar hardware and is available on most Buick, Chevrolet, Cadillac, and GMC vehicles built after 2014. Nothing needs to be installed; you just have to log in to see all the information General Motors could already access.

Additional features include remote access to vehicles, trip summaries, and performance summaries for drivers that actually scores them on how well they drove.

OnStar Vehicle Insights will undoubtedly be a handy tool for fleet operators that have a small office, rather than an entire floor, to themselves. We imagine the General will have quite a few takers. GM’ willingness to take and share data is helping it make serious inroads into alternative, data-focused businesses, but without assurances that it’s not just vacuuming everything up, we’re concerned the double-edged sword of connectivity is going to catch us in the face on the backswing.

[Images: General Motors]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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4 of 5 comments
  • Watersketch Watersketch on Nov 07, 2019

    We have something like this on our fleet vehicles at work which reports individual employees to HR if we are speeding or go outside the geofence. While we are unlikely to switch to an all-GM/Onstar fleet, it could save us a heap of time and trouble if our already OnStar equipped vehicles could utilize the OnStar system to transmit the data instead of us having to pay for a 3rd party data system to do the same.

  • Aycaramba Aycaramba on Nov 07, 2019

    This is OK, but as someone with a large fleet of equipment to keep up with, what I really want is a way to pull in all the data streams from the different manufacturers into one system that would allow me to monitor the location and status of all my equipment in one place. I don't want to have to log in to different systems to do that. For me that would having to work in systems for: GM, Ford, Ram, Deere, CAT, Freightliner, Navistar, Peterbuilt, Kentworth, etc. That's why those of us that operate large fleets go with 3rd party hardware and software to bring it all together. Sure it's tremendously expensive, but the alternative is worse. So, good on GM for doing this. But unless you're running a GM-only fleet, there's probably limited utility for the larger fleet operators. Unless GM is willing to provide 3rd parties access to its data stream--then we might have something to talk about.

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    • Scoutdude Scoutdude on Nov 08, 2019

      OK so they might not offer it for off highway equipment but it wouldn't surprise me if they offer an add-on version so that you could get the data on your Fords and Rams on the GM system. They have sold On-Star as a stand alone item for any car in the past.

  • Theflyersfan Well, if you're on a Samsung phone, (noticing all of the shipping boxes are half Vietnamese), you're using a Vietnam-built phone. Apple? Most of ours in the warehouse say China, but they are trying to spread out to other countries because putting all eggs in the Chinese basket right now is not wise. I'm asking Apple users here (the point of above) - if you're OK using an expensive iPhone, where is your Made in China line in the sand? Can't stress this enough - not being confrontational. I am curious, that's all. Is it because Apple is California-based that manufacturing location doesn't matter, vs a company in a Beijing skyscraper? We have all weekend to hopefully have a civil discussion about how much is too much when it comes to supporting companies being HQ-ed in adversarial countries. I, for one, can't pull the trigger on a Chinese car. All kinds of reasons - political, human rights, war mongering and land grabbing - my morality is ruling my decisions with them.
  • Jbltg Ford AND VAG. What could possibly go wrong?
  • Leonard Ostrander We own a 2017 Buick Envision built in China. It has been very reliable and meets our needs perfectly. Of course Henry Ford was a fervent anti-semite and staunch nazi sympathizer so that rules out Ford products.
  • Ravenuer I would not.
  • V8fairy Absolutely no, for the same reasons I would not have bought a German car in the late 1930's, and I am glad to see a number of other posters here share my moral scruples. Like EBFlex I try to avoid Chinese made goods as much as possible. The quality may also be iffy, but that is not my primary concern