Working in Information Technology (IT) isn't especially glamorous to begin with, at least not outside of geek circles where the humor in Saturday Night Live's Nick Burns skits are completely lost, but at least you could count on steady employment. Even during the recession there's been a spattering of growth in IT spending, and if you happen to be an unemployed IT guy or gal living in the midwest (or willing to relocate), General Motors (GM) may soon have a job for you.
A market research firm says that you and 7,899,999 other drivers will have an active subscription to OnStar, the automotive telematics communications system installed in General Motors vehicles, by the end of 2017. For the sake of comparison, OnStar claimed 5.1 million subscribers in 2010.
GM's crash test test dummies have learned to talk, and as you might imagine, they have much to say. No, they're not complaining about their jobs, but they do "talk in hyper-speed, recording and transmitting crash data 10,000 times a second," GM says.
The auto maker's latest crash test dummies come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and represented genders. Some of the higher tech ones can cost as much as $500,000, a price tag they earn by transmitting megabytes, and even gigabytes of valuable crash data.
"We design these test dummies so that they mimic real life," says Jack Jensen, GM safety engineer and Technical Fellow. "Data from the dummies helps us predict the risk of injury in a real crash. The more realistic the dummy, the more accurate the test results."
The new dummies are currently being used to test the 2011 Buick Regal.
Who wouldn’t want Wi-Fi in their car? GM is offering up the option to purchase the Autonet Mobile Wi-Fi router for seven Chevy vehicles. The system will run $199, after mail-in rebate. While that may seem a bit steep, keep in mind that the normal price is $500. The system is available in the Equinox, Traverse, Silverado, Tahoe, Suburban, Avalanche, and Express. To get the cheap price, perspective customers have to buy one of these vehicles before December 31st.
Customers have to agree to a 2 year service agreement running $29 per month. That only comes with 1GB of data, after which the service shuts off until the next billing cycle. A 5GB plan is available for $59. The Autonet service uses the Verizon network to provide data. An interested party could just get a Verizon MiFi and have a Wi-Fi network powered by Verizon everywhere, not just in the car. Still, if your dream is to impress your friends with a Wi-Fi router in your car, the time to buy is now.
We aren’t supposed to be distracted while operating our cars, but there seems no end to how much our cars will soon be able to distract us. The upcoming generation of electric vehicles are expected to come with apps that will let us be appraised of their status, and better service their needs.
GM is planning to have, at the least, Blackberry and iPhone apps that will let you connect with the Chevy Volt. Owners will be able to set times for charging and, through GM’s OnStar system, track electricity rates from local utilities. The app can also alert an owner on charging status, or if the owner forgot to plug the car in.
Seems that Nissan has something similar in the works for their electric vehicle: an iPod app that manages charging, and lets owners get text messages from their car. (Not while the car is driving, I hope.)
The apps for the Volt do raise the question of too much and too little. Are we becoming a society so out-of-touch with basic car operation we need constant reminders? Or has car operation become so complex that we need a whole new stream of information just to keep us on top of things?
You'll have to kick it old-school and visit a dealership the next time you plan to buy a vehicle from General Motors. That's because the auto maker is puling the plug on its seven-week experiment of selling new cars in California through eBay, the online auction site.
As reported by The New York Times back in August, the eBay venture was considered a "crucial part of GM's effort to return to profitability after five years of heavy losses." Mark LaNeve, GM's vice president for U.S. sales, said the auctions would be attractive to a customers who wish to skip the whole negotiating process, but GM quickly found the opposite to be true. Vehicles were given a 'Buy-it-Now' price equal to GM's supplier price and potential customers could submit a lower offer. Not surprisingly (except to GM), dealers reported receiving low-ball offers. Welcome to eBay.
Had the program succeeded, eBay said it would try to expand it nationally and was open to working with other auto makers. But with GM dealers saying the online marketplace didn't boost sales, eBay may have a tough time drumming up interest from others.