Major, Real-World Study of More Than 8 Million OnStar Calls Reveals That its Embedded Cell Phone Technology is Safe.
An unprecedented study, conducted as part of General Motors' "SenseAble driving" program (a $10 million, multi- year effort to address driver distraction), reveals that the embedded cellular phone used in GM's OnStar system has had an outstanding safety performance record since it was initiated five years ago.
Previous studies that have attempted to associate cell phone use with crashes -- including a much-publicized 1997 University of Toronto report -- could use only small statistical samples and estimates of when calls were made in relation to a crash.
Using the actual OnStar data, the GM study concludes that an air bag deployment crash associated with the use of OnStar's embedded phone system was rare, and that the chance an embedded cell phone actually caused a crash was even more rare.
Here are the facts: During only two of the 8.1 million embedded cell phone calls placed to an OnStar Call Center advisor from October 1996 (when OnStar was introduced) through May 2000 was a driver known to be on the phone at the time of a crash severe enough to deploy the vehicle's air bags. There is no evidence that the calls actively contributed to the crashes; in fact, an examination of underlying records indicated that there were other factors at play in both crashes. In six other cases, in adopting the same kind of research methodology used in the University of Toronto study, it was determined that the driver was on the phone within 10 minutes before a crash that deployed the air bags. Again, there was no evidence to suggest that the calls were related to the subsequent crashes.
The OnStar/"SenseAble driving" study was conducted by Richard A. Young, Ph.D., a GM staff research scientist. Young presented his findings to a group of fellow human factors scientists last week in Colorado.
The study covered only embedded cell phone calls placed from OnStar- equipped GM vehicles to an OnStar advisor. In addition, only crashes in which the air bag deployed, resulting in an automatic phone call to the OnStar Call Center, were examined. "We already knew from our research and thousands of customers' testimonials that OnStar enhances vehicle safety and security," said Chet Huber, president of OnStar, in announcing the findings. "This study confirms that our customers can safely use the embedded cell phone technology of OnStar. From the beginning, OnStar's unique three-button system was designed with safety as a priority."
OnStar, a wholly owned GM subsidiary, is the industry's leading provider of in-vehicle safety, security and information services and is completely integrated into the vehicle. OnStar uses the Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite network and cellular technology to link vehicle and driver to the OnStar Center. OnStar is currently available in 1.5 million vehicles representing 36 of GM's 54 brands.
GM has led the industry in the effort to study and address driver distraction. "SenseAble driving," a three-pronged safety initiative combining research, education and technology, was launched in October 2000. Aside from its research initiative, GM was the world's first and only automaker to establish a set of common-sense "guiding principles" to govern the design and use of telematics technology in its vehicles.
In addition, GM has established a pilot program with the Michigan Secretary of State's office to educate drivers about the risks of distracted driving with brochures, posters and a video that are being offered to vehicle registrars' offices nationwide. Another part of the education initiative is GM's Driver Distraction Demonstration (D3), a fun, interactive computer exercise that shows users first-hand the risks of multi-tasking while driving and the need to make sensible choices. D3, as well as other information on "SenseAble driving," can be found at www.senseabledriving.com and www.gmability.com .
General Motors (NYSE: GM), the world's largest vehicle manufacturer, designs, builds and markets cars and trucks worldwide. In 2000, GM earned $5 billion on sales of $183.3 billion. It employs about 372,000 people globally.