Techies 2015: Innovation - Vauxhall OnStar
25 August 2015
This granitekitchen Techie Award comes a couple of weeks before OnStar launches into the UK marketplace, having already established itself with seven million users across the US, Canada, Mexico and China.
Although other manufacturers have previously offered some of the benefits, it is the breadth of OnStar, the accessibility in terms of the volume of cars, and the long-term planning and pricing that all make Vauxhall's new product a big step forward in what is available to fleet drivers and operators.
The system is two-fold. Firstly, OnStar turns the car into a 4G wi-fi hotspot capable of tethering up to seven devices, with the smartphone app showing key diagnostics, vehicle locking and location.
Then there's the OnStar button, with an operator one press away, that's free of charge once the system is specified. The operator can send required destinations to the car's navigation system, or check the vehicle condition in the event of a warning light appearing, and either alert the recovery services or connect the driver to a dealership to book maintenance work.
As well as automatically connecting the car to the operator in the case of an accident, and pinpointing its location for emergency services, the system can track the car if it's stolen, and prevent it from being restarted once it has been switched off.
Vauxhall is still thrashing out how it could work from a fleet manager's point of view, but there is a wealth of data that operators will also be able to dial into, such as vehicle mileage, condition, tyre pressures, oil life and fuel economy, all emailed on a monthly basis.
There's the potential to build this and many other elements of vehicle condition, such as whether warning lights are showing, into fleet contracts, bespoke to individual requirements, as Vauxhall continues to understand OnStar's potential, explains to the market what it is capable of and assesses the demands from customers.
The system is free for the first year on higher trim levels, varying from model to model. However, it's a shame Vauxhall went back on its word to make the system standard on all new Astra models - the fleet-friendly Tech Line in particular would have been good - while it's a £395 option for the first year on every car where it's not standard.
After that, the core services are likely to cost £79 per year, rolled in with breakdown cover, and the wi-fi will be on a range of mobile phone-style tariffs.
Highly commended - Alphabet Corporate e-Car Sharing
A winner in the Editor's Choice category of the 2014 Techies, Alphabet this time achieves a Highly Commended result for its continued advances in both its Alphacity car-sharing programme and its Alphaelectric scheme to help ease fleets into plug-in vehicles.
The two have come together now with the introduction of the BMW i3 to the Alphacity car club scheme, giving corporate customers "an exclusive on-demand electric car club", according to the lease firm. Trials started last month in the UK, with a roll-out expected later this year.
Alphacity uses swipecard tech to replace, for example, taxi spend, rental, grey fleet and pool cars with a low-admin fleet car club system.
Highly Commended - Nexus IRIS V4
A car hire booking process that takes just three clicks and 10 seconds is Nexus's claim with the latest update of its Intelligent Rental Information System (IRIS V4) for rental booking and management. Users are able to view vehicles on rent and extend terms with the drag of a mouse, rather than needing to phone or email, and the firm claims an accuracy rate of over 99% on invoicing.
"In a world where people are busy and have very little spare time, this product makes all aspects of rental very quick and efficient," said one member of our judging panel.