Design Con 2015
Breaking News
News & Analysis

LTE Built-In GM Cars: No Smartphones Required

GM Partners with AT&T; Qualcomm Goes for 20nm LTE-A Chips
2/25/2014 11:15 AM EST
24 comments
Page 1 / 2 Next >
More Related Links
View Comments: Threaded | Newest First | Oldest First
tpfj
User Rank
CEO
GM selects my carrier
tpfj   2/25/2014 2:45:36 PM
NO RATINGS
So GM selects my future carrier. No thanks, I'll pass on GM products. There is no reason to lock to a carrier except to gouge.

junko.yoshida
User Rank
Blogger
Re: GM selects my carrier
junko.yoshida   2/25/2014 5:30:51 PM
NO RATINGS
I agree. There are a lot of details that need to be worked out, I think. First, who pays the LTE subscription fee? Does it come with OnStar service?  And how much flexibility will carriers offer consumers? Will they allow consumers to bundle this with their existing data plan? And obviously, if drivers are not subscribed to AT&T, then, what happens?

Bert22306
User Rank
CEO
Re: GM selects my carrier
Bert22306   2/25/2014 7:14:41 PM
NO RATINGS
This is nothing new, in fact. I have OnStar in my GM car now. It uses the Verizon 3G network. Although initially we had a combined Verizon plan that included OnStar and our cellphones, later they split out the OnStar into a separate monthly bill. So, no problem if you don't have a Verizon plan!

(Parenthetically, the original Kindle is the same. It uses AT&T wireless. Doesn't have to be bundled with any other plan.)

The original OnStar used the analog AMPS standard. And yes, from the start, these ALWAYS had external antennas, for better reception. So I see this as a natural progression. AMPS to 3G (since analog cellular was shut off entirely by 2008), and one would expect OnStar to migrate to 4G and then 5G, each time selecting whatever cellular carrier that best met their needs.

Future proof with 4G? Kind of makes me laugh.

The idea of offering an in-car WiFi hotspot is sort of cool. Could be done with 3G too, I suppose.

Oh, as an aside, GM and Mercedes, both of which have similar telematics systems, DID NOT offer to update older cars to the new cellular standard, or at least, not many of the older models. When OnStar went digital, ca. 2007, GM only offered updates to 2003 and newer cars. The rest could instead feel free to visit GM showrooms and select a new car.

junko.yoshida
User Rank
Blogger
Re: GM selects my carrier
junko.yoshida   2/25/2014 9:28:00 PM
NO RATINGS
@Bert, as usual, thanks for adding good insight here. I've never owned GM cars, and I did not know that. Thanks for your comments.

What you wrote in the last paragraph caught me eyes.

Oh, as an aside, GM and Mercedes, both of which have similar telematics systems, DID NOT offer to update older cars to the new cellular standard, or at least, not many of the older models. When OnStar went digital, ca. 2007, GM only offered updates to 2003 and newer cars. The rest could instead feel free to visit GM showrooms and select a new car.


Does this mean that something like a car to be "upgradable" and "future proof" as far as connectivity is concerned, they'd have to use software-defined radio? Or, it it just a plain fairy tale for those carmakers to think that they are "future-proofing" their cars, I wonder.

Bert22306
User Rank
CEO
Re: GM selects my carrier
Bert22306   2/25/2014 9:35:02 PM
NO RATINGS
Junko, software defined radios are not even required. The ONLY thing required by the automakers is a will to do the job.

Even the first 1995 versions of OnStar were modular. It would have been nothing earthshaking to offer clients an upgrade. The first systems had separate modules for the cellular interface and the in-car systems interface. It seems simple enough to keep all of the existing services unchanged, and only swap out the cellular interface module.

Over the years, OnStar became more and more capable. But the owners of the older cars didn't care about any new bells and whistles. They just wanted their system to keep working.

I'm curious to see what GM will do this time around.

junko.yoshida
User Rank
Blogger
Re: GM selects my carrier
junko.yoshida   2/25/2014 9:43:06 PM
NO RATINGS
@Bert, that's a damn good question. I am going to ask GM. (This looks like nothing but a planned obsolescence to me.)

 



tpfj
User Rank
CEO
Re: GM selects my carrier
tpfj   2/26/2014 10:07:44 AM
NO RATINGS
Speaking from a position of some ignorance here, as I too have never owned a car with OnStar, but we are I think talking about a serious data load now. My suspicion is OnStar did not consume much, but a car infotainment system, GPS mapping, cellular call and messaging system for multiple individuals in a car is going to be (as they are touting it "a phone with a car wrapped around it") a full family mobile subscription, not a small add-on fee. I'm not sure this is the same model as Onstar was, but please feel free to correct me. I definetely think OnStar has the lead here, and should logically corner this market should they expand into other vehicle models and address all mobile carriers, but they need to effectively become a carrier in their own right, which means customers pay twice, once for the mobile subscription and once for their car unless this duplicity can be resolved ammicably. Which it won't if my car is tied to AT&T and I chose Verizon for my mobile.

AZskibum
User Rank
CEO
Re: GM selects my carrier
AZskibum   2/26/2014 10:53:15 AM
NO RATINGS
Even if GM doesn't select the carrier, how many users will be excited to pay for cellular data -- potential lots of data, if infotainment is involved? On another note, the subject of the external antenna gave me a chuckle, thinking about the old days when the first analog cellular phones were "car phones."

junko.yoshida
User Rank
Blogger
Re: GM selects my carrier
junko.yoshida   2/26/2014 12:49:12 PM
NO RATINGS
As the analyst tells me, for telematics services OnStar is providing today, certainlly, it wouldn't require a lot of bandwidth. But by adding LTE modem to a car, GM can be in a driving seat, so to speak, to evolve OnStar into something differnt, which might include even infotainment services.

Now, that's where the trouble comes in. How will GM decouple the future services that would require a lot of data (and naturally a data plan with a cellular operator) from whatever data plan drivers already have with their cell phones?

Kinnar
User Rank
CEO
Re: GM selects my carrier
Kinnar   2/27/2014 5:22:33 AM
NO RATINGS
Simply speaking the initiative is nothing more than just putting a mobile phone inside a car. The only additional feature the Qualcomm chipset offering is DSRC (Dedicated Short Range Communication).

If you say that a mobile phone is embedded in the car then this can be said a good initiative by GM, but if you say that this is going to be a technology upgraded car, then it will be a very immature step of GM using and implanting a yet to standardized and still under research protocols inside a car. This will simply let the people suffer with the things inside car after few months, as it is a yet to develop standard and technology. Even one can not say that use of DSRC this way will be the best implentation of it.

wilber_xbox
User Rank
Manager
Re: GM selects my carrier
wilber_xbox   2/27/2014 12:36:09 PM
NO RATINGS
I am thinking of this step as another dimension for customer data collection. Until now the data was only related to social media or what you used to share intentionally or unintentionally through your smartphone which you carry around. Now there is another interface or touchpoint to know about your activity on the road. Whatever diagnostics that you want to run on the car may not be as advance as the ones already in aeroplanes so in that sense not much needs to be done for putting the algorithms in the car chip.

Kinnar
User Rank
CEO
Re: GM selects my carrier
Kinnar   2/27/2014 2:16:49 PM
NO RATINGS
Yes you are right there are always that kind of threats of being monitored by the third party, and bugs in their software will make us vulnerable.

Etmax
User Rank
Rookie
Re: GM selects my carrier
Etmax   2/28/2014 9:15:11 AM
NO RATINGS
I think this thing of having an account for your smart phone, tablet, car, microwave oven, refrigerator (just kidding about the last 2) is ridiculous.

I have a tablet with 3G but wish I didn't, and when the contract runs out I'm only going to have one 3G/4G plan on my phone and use it as a hotspot for everything else.

All that seems to happen is that you have to pre-purchase enough Gigabytes for every device even though you only ever use one or the other.

They tried to sell me a 4G modem for my laptop too, but no I just hotspot to my phone, and if I find I need that functionality in my car I'll do the same, the only thing that won't work is vehicle tracking after theft and really because I haven't bought a high priced foreign vehicle I'll likely never need it anyway.

So to sum up my point, I think having a fully connected smart phone as a hotspot for everything else is a least cost option with optimal functionality. It even has the advantage that if someone borrows my car they can't run up my data bill :-)

If 5G comes along I'll upgrade my phone and everything is automatically 5G (no visit to the GM show room or buying a new tablet as well)

JeffL_2
User Rank
CEO
A bad idea all around
JeffL_2   2/26/2014 12:10:27 PM
Let's see, if I had bought a Ford with Sync in it a few years ago, now I would be having problems with in-car connectivity. So Ford gets upset with Microsoft's crappy customer service and drops them in favor of Blackberry. "Yes mister Ford customer, you have an older vehicle with the Microsoft operating system? Gee I'm afraid you're out of luck, you got 'stuck' with the 'Windows XP' of mobile code, on April 8 Redmond will be dropping all support for that lousy product, you'd better stop driving that vehicle because every script kiddy in eastern Europe is trying to hack into it, and some of them are the same people who were behind the Target data breach." Thanks a lot for all the help mister Ford service writer, by the way I'd like to have a word or two with someone from your "genius bar" for a couple of moments - wait, all you have are service techs?...

Fast forward to today, there's been some "backroom deal" cut between GM and one of the mobile carriers (you could be forgiven for noticing the similarity between this and the "sweetheart deal" some of the insurance carriers got with Obamacare, let's see GM was bailed out by the gov't by giving them what was once OUR tax money wasn't it?). Now like it or not if I want to purchase a certain model of vehicle I'm required to purchase a high speed "data plan" and I know that some amount of that bandwidth will be utilized by GM for purposes unknown, maybe they're monitoring how "leadfooted" I am and passing that information to my insurance carrier, maybe they're giving it to Google to distract my GPS-guided map-watching with customized ads, maybe it's only going to the NSA (ASSUREDLY it's going there). But you see we HAVE to get this plan because it's REQUIRED in order that GM will honor our new car warranty, because they're using it to provide the firmware in the vehicle with "critical service updates". Oh and if I want to trade in the car before my "data contract" is up I have to pay a termination fee, huh? Now just WAIT a minute, I paid FULL price for a BRAND NEW vehicle and they were just FINE with me driving it off the lot with the revision 0.8 firmware, but now I'M PAYING for a mechanism so they can REPLACE it while I'm on the road with a version they think might ACTUALLY work - this time?? And they're going to send me these "critical updates" over a cellular data network with absolutely NO guarantee of end-to-end data integrity? And the "certified reliability" that this code will REALLY work comes from the Indian IT contractor who submitted the lowest bid for the job, when the selfsame job for a commercial aircraft would require TENS OF THOUSANDS of certified test results to be submitted for review for EACH RELEASE? (See "Toyota accelerator pedal SW" for further insight.) No thanks, I'll either walk or take the subway - what kind of FOOLS do they think we are???

junko.yoshida
User Rank
Blogger
Re: A bad idea all around
junko.yoshida   2/26/2014 12:52:33 PM
NO RATINGS
Damn, Jeff, this is such a good read! (I laughed out loud). But seriously, the scenarios you laid out here are not that way off. I mean, the scary part is that it could be all happening!

JeffL_2
User Rank
CEO
Re: A bad idea all around
JeffL_2   2/26/2014 2:18:49 PM
NO RATINGS
Thanks for the compliment, Junko - all I can tell you is the quote, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. - George Santayana"

Bert22306
User Rank
CEO
Re: A bad idea all around
Bert22306   2/26/2014 4:25:56 PM
NO RATINGS
We can always create Orwellian scenarios, but they may not apply. The car owner doesn't have to subscribe to OnStar, and the entire system can be disconnected. I doubt it would be used for firmware updates of critical ECUs, but in principle it could. And if it is, it would work just like it does on cell phones or other connected appliances, including my new WiFi radio, for instance. (And if it were used that way, there would no doubt be the old fashioned alternative of having this done via the OBD-II port instead.)

When we bought the car, the salesman showed us where the module is and how to disconnect it. (Was he lying? Was this just a dummy box? Does the NSA require the real OnStar module to be encased in epoxy and hidden inside the bumper?)

When GM picked Verizon last time around, it was a decent choice. Verizon had chosen CDMA from back in its 2G days, which made the network compatible with its cdma2000 3G upgrade. Where instead, the GSM folk had to change everything from their 2G to 3G. So I found that choice good. This time, perhaps they're looking for the system that provides most 4G coverage now? Don't know. Either way, I don't know whether anyone was up in arms when Kindle chose AT&T for their "whisper net," or whatever the heck they called it.

Also, I don't know to what extent OnStar will be used for infotainment. It might make more sense to use OnStar for the vehicle telematics (or just disconnect it altogether), and bluetooth with your smartphone and its data plan, for the infotainment stuff. And since Bluetooth is offered in GM cars, setting your car up this way is certainly the user's option.

JeffL_2
User Rank
CEO
Re: A bad idea all around
JeffL_2   2/26/2014 4:56:41 PM
NO RATINGS
"Orwellian"? We're talking about GM here, the very same outfit that "suppresses" information obtained via the OBD-II port, for example if you have a misfire with a general purpose (non-GM-made) code reader it only reports "P300" not the "P30X" code which tells you which cylinder gave you the misfire. It was during the trial-and-error process of figuring out which cables and plugs were bad that the incomplete combustion totally wiped out my catalytic converter. Worse, since the model year of the vehicle was less than seven years old here in California, there had been no "aftermarket" converters certified by CARB yet (state law requires that the manufacturer certify the exhaust systems of ALL vehicles of new manufacture for the first seven years or 70,000 miles, I was of course over the mile limit therefore "responsible" to replace the converter, the purpose of the seven years is to "build up" a sufficiently large market for the converters that the OEM can afford to pay Sacramento the $100K "approval fee" to CARB which goes into one of the hundreds of environmental "slush funds" that the voters either aren't aware of or oddly enough consider "normal"), but since it wasn't yet "certified" by CARB that meant if I wanted to get the vehicle smog-certified I'd need to PAY TO REPLACE THE ENTIRE EXHAUST SYSTEM (I'm broke so I got a two-year waiver before the vehicle goes to an Ecology landfill next August).

If you haven't been paying attention, reality is pretty darn "Orwellian" lately! (At least it is from the standpoint of corporations and the state colluding to create some kind of dystopia for the working stiff.)

LarryM99
User Rank
CEO
Re: A bad idea all around
LarryM99   2/26/2014 6:18:27 PM
I'm not so sure that 'Orwellian' really describes it. The threat there was Big Brother, while what we are facing here sometimes more resembles a whole family of brothers that are fighting to see who is going to be in charge. I have no faith that a car company can effectively run a general-purpose data service network, but that doesn't stop them from wanting to be the next Comcast, who wants to be the next Google, who wants to take out Facebook, and on and on. This type of vertical integration is just another weapon in that war.

Etmax
User Rank
Rookie
Re: A bad idea all around
Etmax   2/28/2014 9:44:35 AM
NO RATINGS
Bert, a little off topic here (apologise for that) but I really have to ask what the wisdom is in having a whole bunch of carriers with different standards spread out all over the country such that depending on where you live and who you sign up with you can't make a phone call from your own house, or you go to another part of the country and can't call home. All these carriers build base stations where they think they will attract customers and there might be 5 in one popular location and none in a slightly less popular location and all for a system that is supposed to allow mobile communications.

I would have thought it would make far more economic sense to have a communications authority that decides what spectrum and and method (cdma, 3G, 4G, GSM) will be used and then that authority rolls out the infrastructure everywhere and everyone's carrier pays for their customers usage of bandwidth/airtime and you don't have this expensive incompatible duplication and sometimes total lack of infrastructure for what is essentially a key enabler for every aspect of the economy.

Some might say "can't be done" but effectively this is the transmission side of the network only, and power transmission is already effectively shared between competing power providers, I mean if you decide to want xyz's electricity instead of abc's, it still comes over the same wires.

This way everyone would have the service quality that should be expected for likely a fraction of the cost. Also there would be more competition because you could go to any carrier and still use the same phone and get the same call quality.

Bert22306
User Rank
CEO
Re: A bad idea all around
Bert22306   2/28/2014 3:32:11 PM
NO RATINGS
Etmax, no particular wisdom at all, in promoting the existence of walled gardens. It was done by the FCC in the name of "innovation." I'd sooner have a single cellular standard, and have the ability to buy any phone I please, not those offered by just a particular cellular carrier.

I'm just saying that things being as they are, in the US, what GM is doing with OnStar is not really a problem. There's nothing nefarious about it, or even unusual. You can opt in or opt out, you can use it for only those features you want and not others, and you can use your smartphone as well.

I guess the other point is that 4G changes nothing wrt OnStar, other than adding more features to a feature set that has been growing ever since 1995.

This hype about calling a car a smartphone is what causes all the confusion. It's not a smartphone. It is merely a another platform that can make good use of the cellular infrastructure, saddled with having to pick a carrier because the FCC allowed US cellular communications to become a gaggle of walled gardens.

MeasurementBlues
User Rank
Blogger
Re: A bad idea all around
MeasurementBlues   3/3/2014 12:40:33 AM
NO RATINGS
@Bert "I'd sooner have a single cellular standard, and have the ability to buy any phone I please, not those offered by just a particular cellular carrier."

Ever hear of an unlocked phone?

I always buy unlocked phones. I have two iPhones and a Samsung in my house. Bought them all unlocked through eBay. All are a generation behind but it's a lot less expensive that buying a new unlocked phone.

Etmax
User Rank
Rookie
Re: A bad idea all around
Etmax   2/28/2014 9:18:44 AM
NO RATINGS
Well basically yes, what did you think? Buying a car gives you a right to privacy?

JeffL_2
User Rank
CEO
Re: A bad idea all around
JeffL_2   2/28/2014 10:33:25 AM
NO RATINGS
Etmax, you're not even asking the right question, I have ZERO intention of setting aside money for several years in order to buy "a hotspot with four wheels and an engine", what I'm trying to purchase is practical, economical AND SAFE transportation, I frankly have just about ZERO interest in whether it has a cellular modem or in fact connectivity of any kind (besides maybe the dashboard radio)! The premise "alright YOU bought a car, you NEED connectivity in order to accomplish GM's (or any other corporation's) stated goals of warranty service" not only doesn't justify my purchase of a data plan, I believe it actually tends to work AGAINST my need for safe transportation. Let me explain.

Do you remember what smartphones were like before the advent of Apple's iPhone? Carriers claimed to offer "web browsers" and all manner of other "features" like "game services" but in the end the environment you were placed in was more or less a "walled garden" in which you were continuously bombarded with ads for additional cellular services or subscriptions that would allow you to play overpriced games or listen to a limited selection of music. You could only "browse" to sites that did NOT offer services that competed with the paltry, high-profit offerings of your carrier. People bought them like crazy because it still seemed borderline miraculous connectivity of a "PC in your pocket" - but then Apple came in and demanded that if they were going to offer their phones to a carrier the walls of that garden had to come down PRONTO, and we finally get a good look at the REAL World Wide Web from our smartphones. But it's not as if the former situation was in any way a surprise, when you give a large corporation the opportunity to make outsize profits, you can be sure they'll take it.

So the first issue is we have to be cautious that by allowing high-speed cellular modems to be installed in new vehicles, we aren't inviting the "walled gardens" right back in our lives. Yes you want to buy that fancy Cadillac Escalade, but then you want to listen to music on it? You can get anything out of the GM "greatest hits" library, you just have to authorize the download for $0.99, same thing for games or anything else. Oh you complain they're nickel-and-diming you to death? Go look at your other luxury brands, they'll be as bad or worse, if you're willing to pay that much for a vehicle the manufacturer is betting they can get you to let go of an extra buck or two here and there. Want to listen to your music collection in the cloud? Oh access to THAT (directly or through your smartphone) is either a special subscription service too, or requires downloading an app from the special GM app store, and on and on it goes, just like trying to buy a sandwich on a budget airline. (Now you know why Apple and Tesla are having advanced talks, I wouldn't want to spoil anything here...)

But what I'm REALLY concerned about is the safety - or better put, the LACK of it - in terms of on-the-road vehicle firmware. Traditionally auto OEMs found themselves to be "highly motivated" to get any new firmware in their new car models thoroughly reviewed for safety issues before the new model release, because once the circuit boards were placed in the vehicle (for the most part) they'd need to be R&R'ed before the firmware inside them could be updated, and they wouldn't want to unnecessarily bear that expense. What we're embarking on is a situation where potentially this firmware could be updated AT ANY TIME, and perhaps without either the awareness or consent of either the vehicle owner or driver - that's the LAST thing I want to allow them to do with my car, and I've NEVER had to worry about this before! Now the "incentive" for them to "get it right the first time" could either be compromised or REMOVED COMPLETELY - uh-oh! My specialty is testing and certification of firmware for commercial avionics according to the standards approved by the FAA. Now in their system in order for a plane to get of the ground there's a book that contains ALL the "approvals" (they're called TCs and STCs) for ALL the "technical details" on the aircraft, which certainly includes the firmware releases in all the avionics and so forth. We don't yet have a "model" for this for land vehicles but we know that these matters are handled by NHTSA, NOT the FAA, and given their "track record" on automotive safety (like the Toyota accelerator situation) I'm not too impressed so far. I personally think this issue needs to be thought about LONG AND HARD before we let almost every car in the country become a "safety beta site" - yikes!

Overall, though, I guess a cellular modem in my vehicle doesn't "guarantee" me any more of a "right to privacy" than I have on my regular cellphone. But that doesn't mean that I have to be entirely happy about the "status quo" in EITHER circumstance!

Radio
LATEST ARCHIVED BROADCAST
EE Times Senior Technical Editor Martin Rowe will interview EMC engineer Kenneth Wyatt.
Top Comments of the Week
Like Us on Facebook

Datasheets.com Parts Search

185 million searchable parts
(please enter a part number or hit search to begin)
EE Times on Twitter
EE Times Twitter Feed
Flash Poll