HOLDEN owners will soon be able to start their cars' engines via a secure smartphone or smartwatch app to get the aircon to cool the cabin before they get in on a hot day. The app also enables drivers to lock and unlock the doors of cars parked in phone range.
MyHolden will check the air pressure in the tyres and the engine oil level so the driver need not remove the valve caps or lift the bonnet.
It's part of a suite of technology available on the next generation of OnStar, the General Motors version of Big Brother.
The service was primarily designed to summon help in emergencies via a red button on the rear view mirror, or automatically when the airbags are deployed. Drivers push the SOS button and the exact location of the vehicle is sent to a control centre and an operator immediately notifies authorities.
The latest OnStar tech can even predict the type of injuries sustained, based on detailed crash data uploaded in milliseconds, which is then relayed to emergency services en route.
There is a catch: the cutting-edge tech can't be retrofitted to older Holdens or those already on sale. Holden plans to roll out OnStar from 2019, starting with the Equinox SUV then the rest of the line-up in the early 2020s.
Buyers are expected to get a three-month free trial before being asked to subscribe - in the US, the service costs $20-$35 a month.
The enabling SIM card is built into the vehicle, with buyers opting in or out.
In the US about 40 per cent of drivers sign up for the OnStar service.
Some new Fords in Australia automatically dial 000 after a crash if a phone is connected via Bluetooth and in range, sending the location via an automated message to emergency services.
The Holden OnStar system will be staffed by 30 to 50 operators with emergency services training, who check on drivers immediately after a crash and contact authorities.
"OnStar's human touch is what makes it unique and differentiates OnStar from other telematics services,” says Peter Keley, the former Holden boss who now heads OnStar International.
"OnStar uses very powerful and advanced technologies to deliver its services in the car and via the web and smart devices (but) it is simple and easy for the customer to use.”
There are nearly 13 million OnStar subscribers in the US, Canada, Mexico, South America, Europe and China.
In the US there are about 6000 emergency calls a month and another 6000 "good Samaritan” calls alerting authorities to crashes.
The tech also can bring stolen cars to a stop - by disabling the accelerator rather than applying brakes - once police check the vehicle visually and deem it safe to do so.
GM says it recovers about 600 stolen cars a month in the US in cases where the thief also has taken the keys.
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