The move toward connected cars has raised the issue of protecting the motorist's privacy while on the road. Opel/Vauxhall has adapted parent General Motors' OnStar system to address this concern while still allowing access to the online services that customers demand. Opel's manager for connected customers, David Voss, explained how in a recent interview with Automotive News Europe Correspondent John Stanley.
How do you see connected cars now?
A few years ago the automotive industry realized that the vehicle was somehow a blank spot on the digital map. Here at Opel we responded by moving significantly in the direction of becoming a mobility service provider by making our vehicle part of the Internet of Things. With the introduction of Opel OnStar in 2015 across our passenger car portfolio, we have connected vehicles that fit seamlessly into this digital road map.
What is Opel doing to address privacy concerns linked to connected cars?
With OnStar a customer can decide whether or not he wants to share location data. If he does not, he can use the privacy button. OnStar is not tracking the customer's location.
That data is still captured in the vehicle but when you press the privacy button it is not recorded?
Yes. We do not track any data, so there is no log file being transmitted. If a customer chooses to enable location sharing they can be connected to a real person and ask them for help. Once you are in privacy mode, it stays that way until you actively choose to get out of it.
How much development do you share with General Motors and how much pioneering work do you do at Opel?
The demand of the so-called "connected customer" is a global one. Therefore, it definitely makes sense to create global synergies, not to reinvent a service for different regions. But in Europe we also have specific requirements, for example, the privacy button in OnStar. That's something specific to Europe.
How key is the Internet of Things?
In addition to providing new car-centric services, we see it as an enabler for automated driving. With it the car will be able to "talk" with other cars or an infrastructure and exchange information about obstacles around the next corner, for example.