"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.)
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.
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?
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???
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."
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.
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.
January 2016 Cartoon Caption ContestBob's punishment for missing his deadline was to be tied to his chair tantalizingly close to a disconnected cable, with one hand superglued to his desk and another to his chin, while the pages from his wall calendar were slowly torn away.122 comments