Predicting the Future: In-Depth with OnStar Proactive Alerts

Posted on August 21, 2017

Diagram of how Proactive Alerts works.

We spoke to the people behind the button to learn how OnStar helps provide Members with peace of mind when they’re out on the road.

No one can predict the future. But that isn’t stopping the team at OnStar Research and Development from trying.

“We wanted to target the issues that most negatively impact drivers,” says Jim Kelly, product manager for Advanced Diagnostics15 with OnStar. “The type of problems that mean you’re walking home: fuel system, starter — things like that.”

If the team could figure out a way to predict those sorts of potential issues with the vehicle, it would enable the driver to get it resolved before it became a problem — and keep more OnStar Members on the road.

The result was Proactive Alerts,16 the industry’s first predictive technology, which can identify potential walk-home events with the vehicle before they happen and notify the driver so they can take the vehicle in for service. First deployed in the 2015 Chevrolet Equinox, the service today is available on a wide variety of GM vehicles, including the Chevrolet Corvette and Suburban, the GMC Sierra and the Cadillac Escalade.

While nearly all newer vehicles are able to report diagnostics about what’s currently happening in the vehicle, it takes a lot of work on the front end to be able to take that information and use it to predict potential issues before they happen — especially for a variety of different vehicles.

“What made it possible was the introduction of OnStar 4G LTE,”13 Kelly said. “It allowed us to [increase our data volumes] and run it through predictive algorithms in order to glean patterns about future issues.”

Drawing of starter motor, fuel pump, and battery.

Kelly and the rest of the OnStar team focused on three primary systems within the vehicle: the starter motor, the fuel pump and the battery. The end result is analogous to getting a checkup at the doctor’s every day versus going to the hospital whenever you’re sick.

OnStar is also working to improve both the sensitivity and accuracy of the predictions. For example, a low battery charge can cause an alert to be sent to the driver. But the system is now intelligent enough to differentiate between a low battery charge that can be remedied by a short drive, and high electrical resistance that can indicate that the battery needs to be replaced.

And while no one can predict the future with 100% accuracy, Kelly is bullish about the future of Proactive Alerts.

“This is what Advanced Diagnostics is supposed to be,” Kelly said. “OnStar can tell you when a critical vehicle component is about to fail so you can go and schedule service. And we’ll keep working to make it better and better — because our goal is to protect as many of our Members as we can.”