Chevy Technology Series Part 4: Connectivity
How Far Chevy Has Come Since Offering the First Radio Option in 1924
Not that many years ago, auto enthusiasts examined each other’s cars, asking,
“What do you have under the hood?” Make no mistake — Chevrolet has plenty of potent powertrains available to answer that question — but for many tech-savvy enthusiasts, the question has become, “What do you have in the dashboard?”
From one end of Chevrolet’s model range to the other, we have plenty of answers for that question too. At Chevrolet, tapping into the ever-evolving digital world is a central priority to ensure customers have every opportunity to make use of the safety, informational, environmental and entertainment opportunities that connectivity presents.
The Connectivity of OnStar
Let’s start with OnStar®† which debuted as a crucial but comparatively simple service at the Chicago Auto Show in 1996, and quickly spread through the Chevrolet lineup. Primarily an air bag deployment notification system, OnStar quickly grew to offer a comprehensive range of services.
And not just in the United States. Would it come as a surprise to learn that there have been nearly 14 million requests from OnStar users for its Turn-by-Turn Navigation service? It may when you learn that all those requests have come from China alone, where OnStar has been available only since late 2009. In the United States, those turn-by-turn requests are approaching 100 million.
Other OnStar stats are comparably impressive: More than a million emergency services delivered, nearly 600,000 “good Samaritan” calls, more than 213 million vehicle diagnostic emails sent, nearly six million “remote door unlocks,” nearly three million roadside assistance responses and nearly 60,000 instances of stolen vehicle assistance.
In 2009, OnStar introduced a feature that could not only pinpoint the location of a stolen vehicle that was equipped with the service, but would disable the gas pedal after police notified OnStar that the vehicle had been spotted. The first use was in October 2009 when OnStar led police to a Chevrolet Tahoe that had been hijacked at gunpoint. Police arrested the thief when OnStar remotely slowed the Tahoe as it was speeding away.
Customers Drive Innovations
OnStar’s innovation has been driven by what its customers want and need. “For more than 16 years, OnStar has developed and enhanced our service by listening to our customers,” says Joanne Finnorn, OnStar vice president of Subscriber Services. “They tell us how they use technology and what they want it to do.”
Earlier this year, OnStar began offering Family Link, which allows subscribers to stay connected to their loved ones driving an OnStar-equipped vehicle. Subscribers can log on to the Family Link website to view a map with the vehicle’s location.
Another feature, RemoteLink™ debuted in 2010, and already more than 800,000 active users of the mobile application have checked their tire pressure, the amount of fuel in their tank and unlocked their doors as part of the more than 14 million interactions that have occurred since the auto industry-first mobile app became available. The RemoteLink mobile app was conceived as a feature for Chevrolet Volt owners to remotely check the status of their vehicle’s battery life, and from there, the idea grew to leverage OnStar’s unique connection to customers’ vehicles.
OnStar Helps Volt Customers Access the “Smart Grid”
Indeed, the Chevrolet Volt offers some unique opportunities for OnStar to enhance the ownership experience. OnStar is actively reaching out to utilities, energy companies and tech firms to develop smart grid solutions for the Chevrolet Volt using a set of proprietary OnStar application programming interfaces, or APIs.
So what is smart grid? It’s an electricity network that uses two-way digital communication to control a consumer’s electrical usage, therefore saving energy, reducing costs and increasing reliability. One advantage to Volt owners is that the smart grid can recharge Volt batteries when area electrical consumption is lowest and often cheapest. “With the power of OnStar behind it, the Chevrolet Volt is smart grid-ready today,” says Nick Pudar, OnStar vice president of Planning and Business Development. “Now we need utilities and other companies to take the steps necessary to make smart grid solutions a reality for Volt owners.”
In addition, a 17-car Volt fleet in California is demonstrating the possibility of having OnStar notify Volt owners when and where renewable energy is available to charge their vehicles. “This demonstration shows that in the near future, customers will have a real signal of demand for renewable energy,” says Pudar. “As customers configure their Volts to favor renewable energy for their charging cycle, this real demand signal will influence utilities to tap into renewable sources.”
While OnStar has long been an industry pioneer in automotive connectivity, it is only the start of Chevrolet’s range of connectivity solutions that extends across the lineup.
A New Innovation: Chevrolet MyLink
Chevrolet MyLink† is an all-new in-car infotainment system that gives customers a higher level of in-vehicle wireless connectivity and customized infotainment options. Chevrolet MyLink syncs content from your compatible smartphone to a color touch-screen. Depending on the vehicle you choose, you can use voice commands or touch controls to access contacts, initiate hands-free calling or play music from your MP3 player, flash drive or compatible smartphone with Bluetooth audio streaming. It even integrates apps like Pandora®† and Stitcher
SmartRadio™† with the center stack touch-screen controls, so you can stream your personalized radio selections direct from your smartphone.
MyLink is for Everyone
What you may not expect is that Chevrolet MyLink† is available on the Spark mini car — and is, in fact, standard on two of the three models — offering a 7-inch diagonal color touch-screen radio capable of integrating smartphone-based music, including music from Pandora®† and contacts for hands-free calling. Later, a navigation app will be offered on the Chevrolet MyLink† system that Spark and Sonic share, which is specially designed for the two models’ target market. Chevrolet MyLink† Radio, with an in-dash navigation option, is offered on the 2013 Malibu and Malibu Eco, Volt, Camaro, Cruze, Traverse and Equinox.
Designers and engineers have worked hard to make Chevrolet MyLink† quick and easy to use — the goal is to give consumers maximum control over communication, information and entertainment services, while minimizing required input.
Music, and a Whole Lot More
Connectivity isn’t just all about information — it can be about entertainment too. Car buyers considering the all-new 2013 Chevy Malibu, for instance, “don’t have to settle for mass-market radio,” says Jon Hahn, Malibu marketing manager. “They want the option to create their own individual stations and have access to them wherever they are. Chevrolet MyLink† makes media personalization easy for consumers on the go.”
Indeed, personalization is key. On select vehicles like Malibu, Chevrolet MyLink† retains the capabilities of today’s entertainment functions, including AM/FM/SiriusXM†, a CD player with MP3 playback, auxiliary audio and USB inputs.
Also offered on select vehicles is an enhanced, hands-free voice control system powered by Nuance, that allows simple voice commands to initiate phone calls and select radio stations or media from portable MP3 players and compatible smartphones.
The Latest Apps
Pandora® Internet Radio† allows users to create personalized radio stations based on favorite artists or genres. and StitcherSmartRadio™† provides access to thousands of audio programming choices, allowing customers to build a personalized listening experience that can be accessed on Chevrolet MyLink†, after building the station lineup online. For both, data plan rates apply. Gracenote® identifies music collections on a compatible smartphone or MP3 player and presents information such as artist name, genre and album cover art on the Chevrolet MyLink† screen.
And, of course, Chevrolet MyLink allows drivers to easily use their communications technology while their phones remain safely stowed.
Volt Concept Points to the Future
Let’s take a peek at a car that could foreshadow the future for connectivity on Chevrolet vehicles.
It’s the OnStar 4G LTE Chevrolet Volt Advanced Concept Vehicle, and it showcases the potential for connectivity that was developed in partnership with OnStar and Verizon to connect users to the “cloud,” via the Verizon 4G LTE network, providing access to streaming content from a home computer or a popular consumer streaming service like Twonky™.
Inside the 4G LTE Chevrolet Volt, there are three separate “content zones” — the driver can stream his or her favorite music on a center control stack, while each rear passenger is able to control their own specific content through a pair of tablets in the back of each headrest.
Rear passengers can watch streaming movies, play games and make a Skype™ video call. A Home Energy Management application would allow passengers to control home temperature, lights and the garage door before arriving home.
The OnStar 4G LTE Volt Advanced Concept Vehicle is “just a glimpse of what is possible,” says Terry Inch, OnStar Chief Operating Officer.