GM and OnStar unveil Volt mobile apps, we try them out [w/videos]
It's time for the Consumer Electronics Show and so it's also time for the techiest cars on the road (and those which haven't quite made it there yet) to strut their stuff. General Motors and OnStar took a little time last night to show off the Volt mobile apps that will launch with the car, which were formally announced last night, and we were there to try them out and capture a little video. Worth getting excited about? We think so, but read on to find out for yourself.
Maria Rohrer, Marketing Director at GM, was first up for the night, warming up the crowd and reminding us that the Volt is, indeed, still on track to hit production sometime by the end of the year. Eighty cars have thus-far been built by hand, with LiON battery manufacturing facilities ramping up ahead of full production as those first fourscore cars are put through their paces in the hottest of southwestern deserts and the coldest of Canadian tundra.
Then Walt Dorfstatter got things really rolling, giving us a demo of the app we'd come to see: a remote control of the Volt. The demonstration was run on a Motorola Droid, which was used to send a variety of commands to a willing Volt that was plugged in and charging. Messages go from the phone to the OnStar system, which then securely beams them down to the car, enabling a user of the app to basically do anything an OnStar operator could do – honk the horn, track your mileage and even unlock the doors. Yes, with this mobile app you could lock or unlock the car from anywhere, which could be something of a security concern for anyone who runs with a phone that isn't password protected. One of the OnStar reps did confirm, though, that they're thinking about adding a separate password or authentication method within the app itself.
Finally, those living in the north will be happy to know that you can remotely "start" the car from a phone as well, which doesn't actually fire up the onboard engine but instead gets the cabin up to temperature while it's still plugged to the wall – in theory giving you a little more range on your commute before going to petrol reserves.
The app will go live for real whenever the car itself finally hits dealers (probably later this year), but OnStar has thoughtfully put a demo version up online now at OnStarMobileDemo.com and the Apple App Store that anyone can download and play with to get a feel for its functionality. Well, anyone with a BlackBerry, iPhone or Android device, anyway. Windows Mobile and Palm support is not something anyone is talking about, but the company will have plenty of time to make it happen before these things hit dealers. And yes, you'll need to be an OnStar subscriber to use this functionality when that day comes, and we're thinking that service just got its killer app.