Built-in, beamed-in and brought-in. As the road ahead grows more connected, those are the three ways drivers will use technology to make their vehicles part of their broader digital lives. At GM, our leadership in beamed-in tech is inarguable with nearly 18 years of OnStar-equipped vehicles on the road. That has allowed us to make vehicles smarter and safer, and by the end of this year it will also give us more than 30 Chevrolet, Buick, Cadillac and GMC vehicles with an OnStar 4G LTE built-in Wi-Fi hotspot.
Built-in technology is another strong suit for our vehicles. We were the first to market with Siri Eyes Free, allowing for seamless communication with an Apple iPhone’s voice command system. That feature, along with an innovative text-to-voice messaging feature, represent just a piece of the investment we’re putting into our infotainment systems. In an Automotive News story last week, AutoPacific analyst Dave Sullivan said “That system alone can sell that vehicle,” referring MyLink in the Chevy Spark and Sonic. He continued, “You can’t find anything like that on any other car below 15 grand.”
In-vehicle technologies are changing how drivers – especially younger ones – are buying vehicles. According to AutoTrader.com’s Next Generation Car Buyer Study, “73 percent of Millennials (age 16-24) say a car must have infotainment technology in order for them to consider it. A high percentage of Baby Boomers – 61 percent – feel the same way.”
Brought-in technologies in particular have drawn a lot of attention this year as the smartphone industry’s biggest players have begun previewing what’s possible. Earlier this year, GM was among the first manufacturers to commit to Apple‘s CarPlay technology, which allows certain iOS apps to be accessible on the vehicle’s touchscreen. And just this week, GM demonstrated a concept vehicle supporting a Google initiative to bring maps, music, contacts and more from your Android device to your car with Android Auto.
What this means to our owners is unprecedented technology value. Today, they’re already able to add navigation to a $15,000 Spark by connecting a smartphone app, and they can also stream Pandora or TuneIn. Though we’ve announced no specific product plans, a future version of that same Spark will be able to connect to an Apple or Android phone to bring even more content to the 7-inch touchscreen. Oh, and it’ll have standard OnStar with 4G LTE and a built-in Wi-Fi hotspot.
Treating our vehicles as one element of your digital life and being a founding member of the Open Automotive Alliance with Google is an example of a consumer-centric vision of technology in which you will have more options with varying levels of integration. This means our vehicles will be able to fill different needs for different owners.
However, are Google Android Auto and Apple CarPlay taking us, the automakers, out of the equation? No, far from it. These phone integration systems are just one piece of a larger puzzle. While Google, Apple and others are working with us to bring familiar user experiences into the car, we’re working to bring the car onto smartphones. We now handle as many requests from OnStar customers via our RemoteLink smartphone app as we do from live customers. During the cold winter that’s thankfully now behind us, we had a point where we were processing 20,000 remote starts per hour via RemoteLink. If I called you on your flip-phone 10 years ago and said that soon, you’d be able to start your car with a phone, you probably would have laughed.
At the same time, we’ll continue developing built-in solutions that offer unique features and value to customers who don’t want to rely on a smartphone, because “value” is different to every customer.
A vehicle’s cabin is an exciting place to work right now. With new and energetic collaboration between the automotive and consumer electronics industries, the pace is brisk. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Philip M. Abram, Chief Infotainment Officer, is responsible for setting and implementing a global infotainment strategy for Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick, GMC, OnStar, Opel, Vauxhaul and Holden.