OnStar as an Open Platform


OnStar is a mobile data service that GM has developed and currently deploys in many of its passenger vehicles. They also sell it to other automakers for use in their vehicles. It currently serves 2 million customers and adds another 4500 subscribers every day. GM processes 200,000 calls per month for route information, another 14,000 for roadside assistance, and 15,000 for more for remote door unlocking. Add to that the 375 stolen vehicles that are recovered using OnStar each month. This would be a great jumping off point for a piece on identity or privacy, but that's not what's interesting me.

The other day, a friend and I were driving down a cold road in Provo Canyon and looked at the thermometer installed in the car to see if we should be worried about ice on the road. I remarked that it would interesting to be able to read the temperature sensors for the cars around me, particularly those ahead of me on the road. Then it hit me: OnStar could do this today. They have the GPS devices in the cars, temperature sensors, and a mobile network that links the cars to a central data facility. What would be even better is if OnStar were an open system that would allow me to write and deploy applications that made use of their fantastic resource. Think of it as "Wi-Fi meets grid computing." Alas, such is not the case, so I'll just have to wait for Tony Scott (GM's CTO) to put this on his "to do" list.