- The Washington Times - Friday, August 9, 2002

General Motors Corp. has introduced new vehicle technology that will determine the severity of a crash within seconds and automatically call for help.
Crash sensors in the front and rear bumpers and on both sides of the vehicle can tell where the vehicle was hit and the speed and force of impact.
Beginning in some vehicles next year, the information will be sent to an OnStar operator through a hands-free cellular phone connection. The operator can talk to crash victims in the vehicle and provide 911 dispatchers with all the information they need to quickly send emergency responders.
OnStar is the country's most popular in-vehicle communications system, with more than 2 million subscribers. It is a subsidiary of General Motors and provides service for some GM, Lexus, Acura, Audi, Saab, Subaru, Isuzu and Volkswagen models.
The system already alerts an OnStar operator when an air bag deploys, but the improvements will notify operators about accidents that did not trigger an air-bag deployment and send more information about the crash.
OnStar operators can also locate a stolen vehicle, remotely unlock the doors, and provide roadside assistance, remote diagnostics, directions and even dinner reservations. OnStar subscriptions cost $199 to $499 annually, depending on which services are provided.
DaimlerChrysler Corp. will begin offering a cell phone operated by voice commands this fall from Bluetooth Wireless called UConnect. The system does not include crash notification, but DaimlerChrysler spokeswoman Mary Beth Halprin said it may one day if customers request it.
"Right now our consumer research shows that our consumers rate that kind of feature as a lower priority related to the cost associated with that sort of feature," she said. "They think it's a neat concept, but if it's too expensive, they don't want it."
GM won't say how much the company spent on the new technology but OnStar President Chet Huber said subscription fees won't increase.
OnStar currently receives about 500 air-bag deployment notifications and 14,000 roadside assistance requests per month. GM expects the new system will bring in another 124 calls per month in its first year, 278 in the second year and 432 in the third year.
The new system will be available beginning next year on about 400,000 vehicles sold in Canada and the United States, including the Chevrolet Malibu, Chevrolet Trailblazer, GMC Envoy and Envoy XUT, Oldsmobile Bravada and Buick Rainier. The new service will be available across General Motor's entire line by 2007.
GM officials say eventually the information may be transmitted electronically to 911 centers, first responders and hospitals using secure Internet connections.
The system may also one day be able to tell how many people were in the vehicle, whether they were using seat belts and other information that helps emergency responders anticipate injuries before they arrive at the accident scene.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration administrator Jeffrey Runge said the new technology will be especially helpful for rural crashes, where there may not be witnesses and the victims may not immediately be discovered. Dr. Runge was an emergency physician before taking over the agency last year. "I really do believe that [the systems technology] will be there to close a gap that has been there in our ability to save lives," he said.

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