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Building the car of the future

Software patch will replace certain car repairs

The evolution of the car as a platform for technology is shifting into high gear as General Motors begins designing its cars around the GPS-based OnStar system.

OnStar is an in-vehicle safety, security, and information service that uses GPS and mobile phone technology to connect the vehicle and driver to a remote OnStar Center, where advisors are available 24 hours per day to assist with anything from emergency situations to convenience requests.

In an interview at the 2001 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Chet Huber, the president of US-based OnStar, a subsidiary of GM, says GM has begun engineering all of its cars to eventually have OnStar technology "organically embedded" in nearly every part of the vehicle.

Now, with OnStar shipping in every Cadillac and shipping in one of every four of GM's other car models, Huber says the time is right for GM engineers to begin thinking of OnStar as a priority in vehicle designs, before its deployment reaches 100 percent of the GM fleet.

"Ultimately, our vision is that every vehicle that comes out will have OnStar in it," Huber says, adding that if OnStar technology is the priority in a car's design, the benefits flow not only to the car buyer but also to the sales and service arms of GM.

"If the vehicle is designed knowing that it will have [OnStar], then every time you are about to take your car in for service, the dealership hits a button and at two in the morning they download your car's computer and are ready for the car when it comes in the next day. You'll have your parts teed up before you get there," Huber says.

Technological advances from OnStar, coupled with vehicle design, could one day eliminate the need for certain service work altogether, Huber says.

"In some cases, you'll be able to download a software patch that completely eliminates the need for the service experience," Huber says.

GM currently licenses OnStar technology to Lexus for use in its vehicles, and Honda will begin shipping OnStar-enabled cars in the second quarter of this year, according to Huber.

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