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Chevy Volt Onstar Features & Requests


Onstar Mobile Phone App Demo for Chevrolet Volt

I have a favorite saying about the Chevrolet Volt.  “Finally a Car worthy of the 21st century”  I say that because despite the numerous innovations  in engine, battery, materials and design by all automakers since the year 2000, by and large the automobile has been slow to adopt and leverage the information, communication and general power of the internet.  While purists will argue that the internet was not really an innovation of the 21st century.  (I had my 28.8 modem, in 1994 after all)  However, the internet as we know it today, with its rich media, mapping and communication technology is different than the BBS boards of yesteryear.

The Chevy Volt’s integration with Onstar and the web-connected experience with your car is a fascinating value proposition, with nearly endless opportunities.  At the most fundamental level Onstar provides a secure and encrypted communication channel between the Volt and the Onstar’s servers via the Verizon 2G data network.  From there, Onstar’s servers can communicate via standard secure web protocols to just about any other application or web service out there. 

OnStar Volt Features

Onstar already has plans for some unique features utilizing this communication pipeline. 

  • Remote Door Unlock via your mobile phone
  • Charge Scheduling and Management via any Web Interface
  • Remote “Cabin Pre-Conditioning” via any Web Interface
  • Ability to Search and Send Addresses to the Volt GPS through your mobile phone or computer
  • Vehicle Statistics and Diagnostic Reports (Telemetry from Volt computers)

For complete information, check out http://onstarmobiledemo.com or watch the youtube clip below.  Note that this demo was from early 2010, and new features have been added since then.

OnStar Volt Feature Requests

While I think it would be very cool for Onstart to release an SDK to develop web applications to interface with the Volt, I think that the technical challenges and obvious security implications for being able to control your vehicle are best left to the professionals.  Onstar appears to have covered the most “Obvious” Value Propositions but below are a list of cool applications that I think would be implementable given the current technology restraints.  If you have any great ideas for Onstar and the Volt, I know some people at Onstar who are looking for those great ideas.  Don’t worry I’ll give you credit J  

Feature Request:  Pick Me Up! Volt Mobile Phone App

You would download this app to your web enabled smart phone.  The basic premise is that if you are waiting for a ride from someone who is driving a Volt (e.g. waiting for a pickup at the airport, or teenage kids waiting for a pickup) you would be able to enter in a unique ID for the Volt being driving with some sort of authentication key (passphrase).  From there, when you press the button “Pick Me Up!”  It will send a request to the Volt / Driver.  This will give the Volt the GPS location of the person wanting to be picked up.  If the Volt driver accepts the request, they will see the pickup person’s location on gps with directions, and will also transmit the Volt’s location data to the person requesting the pickup.  In that way, both the Volt driver and person being picked up can plan their time wisely without constantly calling each other to see where they are.  In the web interface, you could also have a button to “Call the Volt Driver” through Onstar’s prepaid minute plan.

Feature Request:  Wash Me! Scheduler (Web App)

This would be a basic scheduling function available through the myVolt web interface.  The basic use case is, I often forget when I should wash or re-wax my car.  While I could keep a calendar somewhere else to remind me, why not set it up so when you start the car, you’ll get a reminder every 1-3 months to do something.  You can even make it friendly, and have the infotainment screen put up a fun animation that says “Wash Me!”

The scheduling would be configurable via the web, so that users can definite how frequently they need to do something and what that is.  While there are solutions to calendar and scheduling (which is not what should be rebuilt here) having a notification for Volt related tasks, similar to vehicle diagnostics and having some reminders would be a neat and simple feature to integrate with the Volt.

Feature Request:  Charge for a Charge (Mobile Phone or Volt App)

Suppose you want to bum some electricity from a friend while you are at their house, but you don’t want to seem like a cheapskate for freeloading a charge from your friend.  You could setup a basic app where you would designate a “Charge Session” to be payable to a paypal account.  Basically, if you take 4 Kw*h from a friend, the Volt will calculate how much charge it pulled down and setup a paypal transaction to reimburse your friend for the charge, which would of course be secured and authenticated.  The app would provide some default electricity rates based on location data, but would allow you to modify depending on case.  While the other solution in place is to have public charge stations that do the metering, this application would work for unmetered locations with 110v charging.

Feature Request:  Rear-View

Don’t know what this would be used for other than for fun, but the nerdy side of me would love to be able to tap into the Volt’s parking “rear view parking assist camera” remotely and get a compressed image slideshow of what’s going on there.  Maybe you can use this as way of doing remote unlock authentication -  (Stand behind the volt and use the backup parking lamp as a illumination method) take a photo and transmit that data back to the web.

Or  If the Volt detects a collision from the rear, it will automatically take a photograph / video so you can see what happened (or get a plate if the other person decides to run…)  This data you would not push through Onstar’s 2g network likely but would be something you could download from the vehicle.

Those are the neat ones I can think of for now! Post your ideas here and I’ll take the good ones and pass them along to Onstar!  You may see your app in the near future!

5 Responses to “Chevy Volt Onstar Features & Requests”

  1. Jeff N says:

    Good article. One thing I’d like to see is a way of registering radio station interests so OnStar can download new radio station presets as I drive across the country. For example, I might like a news radio station, the local public radio station, and country and big band stations loaded up. It’s a hassle having to find new stations that match your interests while on a road trip.

    Not an OnStar feature, but I’d also really like the audio system to be able to receive streaming Bluetooth stereo from my iPhone. On short trips, I don’t want to have to plug my phone into the USB adaptor in order to listen to podcasts and other iPod content.

  2. PatrickZWang says:

    Hey Jeff,

    Great Idea! You should definitely be able to do that with location tracking etc. If I’m not mistaken, I think that The Volt has Bluetooth capabilities, I think specifically for mobile phone connectivity. If it has at least that I would suspect it would just be software to enable music playing.

    It does have a 30gb hard drive on board as well, though I can understand why you’d prefer to manage the music via iphone (pandora?)



  3. Anthony says:

    I was hoping GM will offer or install some type of cargo cover or cargo area shade in the back trunk area. I hate how you are able to see the trunk area out in the open from sitting inside the car, who wants to see all the junk and stuff inside your trunk, there must be some way in which you can hide it or section off that trunk area from the interior cabin. I also wonder if any accessories will be available right away for the Volt, such as rubber floor mats to protect the carpet in the winter time, or window ventvisors, or even cargo nets and a cargo mat. I really do hope GM will have a sunroof or panarama roof option for the Volt, as well as a little solar panel on top like the Prius and Leaf both have. But would love to see if any accessories would be availble right away for the Volt, would love to get Volt license plate frames, and would love to get maybe a cap to wear and a shirt that says Chevy Volt on it. I guess only time will tell.

    • Jeff N says:

      There is supposed to be a cargo cover as standard equipment although I haven’t seen it yet in any pictures. There is going to be an accessory rear seat storage barrier of some kind that I assume will block off the middle area between the back seats and the cargo area but I also haven’t seen this yet. Other accessories including a cargo net, front window shade, spare 120V charging cords, and a vehicle cover/tarp will all be available by this November. I haven’t seen anything about volt-specific rubber floor mats but obviously there are generic ones available.

      You can see some of these details in the Volt Ordering Workbook. I know it can be downloaded from GM-Volt.com and one or two other sites if you google it.

    • Jeff N says:

      The Volt Workbook can be downloaded from:


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