In March, General Motors announced a partnership with Spireon to provide a telematics solution to GM fleet customers. Spireon, the largest aftermarket telematics provider with 3.75 million active U.S. subscribers, offers web-based fleet management solutions to monitor vehicle and driver performance.
Spireon will use GM’s OnStar 4G LTE hardware and application program interface (API) to power a customized version of its FleetLocate system. The new system will be available on Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, and Cadillac vehicles in May.
Spireon’s FleetLocate system joins other GM Fleet telematics solutions that include a version of Telogis Fleet for GM and GM’s proprietary Commercial Link tool. GM first offered a telematics system from the factory when it partnered with Telogis in 2014.
For all three of these solutions, the necessary hardware is no longer installed in the aftermarket — using OnStar’s in-vehicle hardware, GM fleet customers are able to select a telematics system using a method similar to how they would choose vehicle options.
“We’re excited to offer our GM customers a ‘push-button’ onboarding experience for FleetLocate, enhanced by exclusive diagnostics and data that only come from OnStar,” said Kevin Weiss, CEO of Spireon.
Without hardware requirements, GM customers have more flexibility with telematics choices, said Ed Peper, U.S. vice president, GM Fleet. “Aftermarket boxes are a pain for customers, and they’re expensive,” he said. “Now there are no hardware or installation costs, or downtime for vehicles. The monthly subscription fee is determined by (the telematics provider) based on the features chosen.”
GM fleet customers new to telematics can choose Commercial Link, a more entry-level solution, and then upgrade to more sophisticated, customizable systems offered by
Spireon or Telogis. “It’s like a cable TV subscription,” Peper said.
Spireon fleet customers that want to connect vehicles from GM and those from other manufacturers would still require a mix of factory-direct and aftermarket installations.
From GM’s position, the genesis of the Spireon partnership was an enquiry from a GM customer to connect at the factory. And, the door is open to connect to other telematics providers.
“Down the road, if there are other providers that want to partner with us, they’d use the same API’s (as the ones used by Spireon and Telogis),” said Greg Ross, OnStar’s Business Development and Alliances director. “We have a flexible piece of hardware that our customers can use with any service solution that they prefer, including building their own.”
Telogis customers, however, are able to connect to a growing list of manufacturers through factory ordering. In addition to GM Fleet, Telogis has similar partnerships with Ford, Mack, Hino, Freightliner, Volvo Trucks, and Isuzu. At the 2017 Work Truck Show, Telogis announced a similar partnership with Mitsubishi Fuso for its diesel-engine trucks.
While Telogis, and now Spireon, have been early promoters of factory-ready solutions, other telematics providers have been in talks with manufacturers, though no announcements have been made as of this writing.
Connecting through manufacturers’ hardware and APIs has implications beyond fleet telematics to other connected car uses. Maven, GM’s new mobility platform, also uses the OnStar connection to monitor and access vehicles in the Maven network.
In a general sense, connections enabled at the factory would more easily facilitate new platforms such as carsharing, fleet vehicle pooling, ride hailing, peer-to-peer vehicle sharing, fractional ownership schemes, and more.
“As we recognize opportunities to take additional data off the vehicle, we can create new services through software without having to change the hardware,” Ross said. “So we can innovate and partner with our customers to create new commands and data elements over time.”
Indeed, “connected car” is no longer a catch phrase. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Department of Transportation have submitted a proposal mandating that all new light vehicles be capable of vehicle-to-vehicle (“V2V”) communications as soon as 2020. While the technology that underpins the government’s mandate is slightly different than OnStar, the mandate speaks to a future in which all cars will be connected.
“There’s quite a lot more deployment to come,” Peper said. “I think we’re just beginning to scratch the surface in how much data we’re getting from vehicles and the services we’re able to create.”