By on November 7, 2019

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]

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5 Comments on “True Potential? OnStar Updated With Fleet Management Service...”

  • avatar

    “Tattletale” devices aren’t new to the fleet industry but this approach is. IIRC there was an article a while back that pointed out that this technology could be used to replace current speed enforcement practices. You exceed the speed limit based upon GPS location and a ticket shows up in the mail.

    In the case of fleets, you get too many negative reports at head office and you get asked to show up at HR with a steward.

    I was talking to a heavy duty mechanic that worked with this sort of monitoring. A dude destroyed the transmission on one of their big mine trucks and the print out clearly showed that he was partially responsible.

  • avatar

    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.

  • avatar

    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.

    • 0 avatar
      Tele Vision

      @ aycaramba

      We have Western Star: Ford; and GM in our fleet. Not to mention a LOT of Caterpillar iron. We also went with a 3rd party system out of necessity, costs be damned. I’m sure GM would like to sell all fleets their products and, therefore, their monitoring services. I have yet to see a modern GM grader, though.

    • 0 avatar

      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.

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