Special Coverage

Management Briefing Seminars

TRAVERSE CITY, MI – Data mined from in-vehicle communication systems could soon help save additional lives and improve the nation’s mobility, says a General Motors Corp. executive.

Incidents of advanced collision notification from vehicles equipped with GM’s OnStar telematics service outnumber airbag deployment warnings, says Bob Lange executive director-structural and safety integrity.

OnStar’s three North American call centers get an average of 900 advanced collision notifications per month, compared with roughly 600 airbag deployment calls. GM previously has touted the airbag deployment notification as a lifesaver that puts emergency personnel at crash sites more quickly and efficiently.

“The advanced automatic collision notification system provides data to us we can utilize in motor-vehicle safety research that was absent with just the airbag notification system,” Lange says during a presentation at the Management Briefing Seminars here.

While the latter denotes only deployment, data from OnStar’s advanced automatic collision notification breaks down key elements of a crash event, such as direction of travel and vehicle speed.

GM plans to use the data as part of its role in Michigan’s vehicle infrastructure integration program (VII), a $14.8 million collaboration between federal and local public agencies, the automotive industry and the telecommunications industry that will use automotive information technology to improve safety and mobility.

The goal of VII is to safely integrate information systems from private-sector groups, such as GM and electronics giant Motorola Inc., with information such as traffic and weather reports from transportation departments.

But GM’s contribution to VII in Michigan does not end with data on forward collision warnings. OnStar also could contribute data from the 300,000 calls made every month to its new turn-by-turn navigation assistance service, as well as data from the monthly vehicle diagnostic e-mail that it sends subscribers.

For example, the vehicle diagnostics have allowed GM to monitor tire-pressure signals on a fleet of about 600,000 units over the last five months.

“This is really useful information – a remarkable result,” Lange says, calling the data vastly superior to what previous surveys have yielded, because the vehicles providing the information are equipped with the tire-pressure monitor systems now required by law.

Lange reports that about 85% of the fleet showed proper inflation levels, while less than 1% of vehicles showed dangerously low levels.

In other news surrounding GM VII program, Lange says the auto maker has developed roughly seven solutions – algorithms that provide signal information for communication between vehicles or a roadside transponder – for the 38 use-case opportunities it outlined a year ago.

A use-case opportunity occurs when, for example, vehicle-to-vehicle communications could warn drivers of a dangerous lane change, or when a vehicle-to-infrastructure interaction would warn of an approaching construction zone.

And if a driver is insufficiently attentive to an escalation in warning signals, Lange says, GM conceivably could self-actuate a braking system to prevent a collision.

“The whole idea of VII or V2V communications is to increase the circumstantial, situational awareness of individual drivers under a whole variety of operating conditions,” Lange says.

Other solutions include the potential to prevent intersection collisions and the ability to alert emergency services vehicles of approaching roadway conditions.

But deployment of these sorts of communication technologies depends greatly on market penetration, Lange says.

“We’re going to have to have significant numbers of vehicles in service quickly,” Lange says.

Previously, discussions over these kinds of communications systems focused on placing the technologies in new vehicles. But at today’s replacement rate, Lange says, that route would take upwards of 30 years to make an impact.

“We need to think hard about how we are going to deploy these technologies backward into the existing fleet,” he says. “That means aftermarket applications in a big way.”

jamend@wardsauto.com