Chevys alert drivers to potential failures

Chevrolet calls it industry-first application of predictive technology

Published: May 9, 2016, 11:30 PM
Updated: May 12, 2016, 4:41 PM

Chevrolet Onstar Diagnostics flowchart

Having a car’s computer remind its owner, on start-up or via text message to a smartphone, is nothing new but General Motors is taking it a step farther by having the car alert its owner of potential maintenance problems.

Chevrolet calls it the industry’s first application of predictive technology, and it models itself on that used in the aviation industry (in particular the new Boeing 787 jet airliner, which can send messages in flight to ground crews about parts in need of inspection).

On Chevrolet models, the service is available as an option in association with the OnStar Proactive Alerts service, which continuously monitors things like the starter motor, fuel pump and battery, and notifies drivers when anomalies are detected, advising them to attend a dealership for service.

The OnStar opt-in service is available on 2016 Corvette, Equinox, Silverado, Suburban, and Tahoe, and just needs the owner’s acceptance to be activated. Proactive Alerts collects data each time the vehicle is started, and monitors it on an ongoing basis. It then analyzes it in comparison from data collected from other vehicles to see if the vehicle’s systems are working as they should. If an anomaly is detected, it sends the driver an in-vehicle notification, as well as sending an email or text message to the registered owner.

The idea is to speed up the repair experience, since dealerships can be notified about potential issues and spend less time diagnosing problems.

“With Proactive Alerts, we now can offer customers even greater peace-of-mind by taking the guesswork out of when to service their vehicles,” said Steve Holland, chief technologist for Vehicle Health Management at General Motors. “Accuracy is the key to our prediction algorithms. We will be able to inform dealer service departments so they can spend less time testing for a condition we have already diagnosed. They can replace the necessary part quicker and minimize the amount of time a customer’s vehicle is at the dealership.”

Proactive Alerts can monitor the health of vehicle’s 12-volt battery, for example, and distinguish between a low state of charge, which can be cured by taking the vehicle for a drive, and high electrical resistance, which would mean replacing the battery.

The service is available with all OnStar service plans on eligible models, including the OnStar Basic Plan that will now be standard (over 5 years of ownership) on new Chevrolet vehicles. More system diagnostics will be added in future applications.

“A few companies are doing limited in-vehicle diagnostics, but none have yet demonstrated the capability we offer,” concluded Paul Krajewski, director of the Vehicle Systems Research Laboratory at General Motors. “As we keep expanding the parts of the vehicle we cover, we hope to continuously enhance our customers’ experience, saving them time and money.”