Chevy’s new extension to the OnStar System can help predict failures before the occur

Our cars have gotten pretty smart over the last 30 years. Carburetors are long gone, being replaced by computer-controlled fuel injection, and just about every car made comes with a built-in diagnostic system to help pinpoint errors in the event of an unexpected failure. Now, Chevy is looking to make our four-wheeled companions a little bit smarter by introducing the industry’s first predictive technology, dubbed Proactive Alerts.

In short, Chevy has developed a set of algorithms that allow a car’s computer to monitor certain systems and determine if a failure of that system is imminent. If so, Chevy’s OnStar system will alert the owner via e-mail or text message so that maintenance can be performed before a failure actually occurs. For now, the system only monitors the starter motor, fuel pump, and battery, and is currently available on the 2016 Chevy Silverado, Equinox, Corvette, Suburban, and Tahoe. Eventually, the system will be available on all Chevy vehicles and will be able to monitor additional components.

Steve Holland, the Chief Technologist for Vehicle Health Management at GM, said, “Chevrolet is already the most awarded car brand in the industry, and Silverado is the most dependable, longest-lasting full-size pickup on the road. With Proactive Alerts, we now can offer customers even greater peace-of-mind by taking the guesswork out of when to service their vehicle.”

According to Chevy, the system is even smart enough to know the difference between a battery in a low state of charge and a high electric resistance – something that could point to a failing battery. Proactive Alerts is available with all OnStar plans, including the five-year basic plan that comes standard with new Chevy vehicles.

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Why it matters

Chevrolet Launches "OnStar Proactive Alerts" Predictive Technology
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I’m not sure how much I can approve of or trust a system like this right now. It certainly has its merits, as it would be nice to know that something like a starter motor, for instance, is on its way to the next life. But, how accurate is this system? Are the GM techs awaiting your timely arrival going to perform additional testing to confirm the indicated failure, or is this another gimmick where there is a line of part swappers just waiting to take your money?

Chevy claims the system can tell the difference between high electrical resistance and a discharged battery, but high electrical resistance can be caused by a number of different things – not just a failing battery. A dirty or corroded battery connection, or a damaged battery cable can cause the same type of reading, so you really have to ask yourself whether or not you trust that your dealer won’t take advantage of you by selling you something you don’t necessarily need. At this point, we’ve learned that auto manufacturers don’t have a problem lying to us. That said, I’m a little skeptical at this point, but I’ll keep an open mind to it in the future.

Chevrolet Corvette

2014 - 2016 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray High Resolution Exterior
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Read our full review on the Chevrolet Corvette here.

Press Release

Chevrolet is introducing the industry’s first predictive technology, enabling your vehicle to warn you about a potential maintenance need before it occurs.

Chevrolet Launches "OnStar Proactive Alerts" Predictive Technology
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The technology is similar in concept to that on the Boeing 787, which can send in-flight messages to ground crews alerting them of parts needing inspection before the plane arrives. For Chevrolet drivers who opt-in to the service, OnStar Proactive Alerts continually monitors the health of the vehicle’s starter motor, fuel pump and 12-volt battery. If anomalies are detected, OnStar will notify drivers to take their vehicle in for service, reducing unexpected repairs.

The service, is available now for OnStar subscribers who own a 2016 Chevy Silverado, Tahoe, Suburban, Corvette and Equinox.

“Chevrolet is already the most awarded car brand in the industry, and Silverado is the most dependable, longest lasting full-size pickup on the road,” said Steve Holland, chief technologist for Vehicle Health Management at General Motors. “With Proactive Alerts, we now can offer customers even greater peace-of-mind by taking the guesswork out of when to service their vehicle.”

Proactive Alerts collects a small batch of data each time the vehicle is started, and monitors it on an ongoing basis. Then, sophisticated systems analyze and refine billions of pieces of data, accumulated across the fleet of vehicles. If the data indicates a particular vehicle’s component is not performing as expected, the system will automatically send the driver a message through an in-vehicle notification, and either an email or text message based on customer preference.

“Accuracy is the key to our prediction algorithms,” Holland said. “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 is offered with all OnStar service plans on eligible models, including the OnStar Basic Plan that comes standard for five years on new Chevrolet vehicles. In the future, plans are in place for Proactive Alerts to monitor additional vehicle components and expand to other Chevrolet models.

For example, Proactive Alerts can monitor the health of the 12-volt battery. The system is intelligent enough to distinguish between a low state of charge – which can be solved by going for a short drive – and high electrical resistance that could indicate the battery needs replacement.

“A few companies are doing limited in-vehicle diagnostics, but none have yet demonstrated the capability we offer,” said 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.”

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