Crash test dummies - take a pace forward

30 September 2007

Crash test dummiesFancy taking the place of a crash-test dummy in a real-life, twisted-metal impact? Thought not. However, General Motors (GM) has worked out a way to get flesh and blood customers in America to participate in improving the crashworthiness of its cars - and none are volunteers.

Obviously it's not actually going to slam a concrete block into random US motorists – instead it is to extend the way it uses data from its existing OnStar in-car assistance and telematics service, which uses mobile-phone networks and the Global Positioning System (GPS) to transmit data between subscribers' vehicles and OnStar control centre. It offers a range of services including remote unlocking (handy if you've lost your keys), stolen vehicle tracking, breakdown assistance and help finding your car in car parks – a feature called “remote horn and lights”. Sadly there doesn't seem to be a “wake me up when we get there” feature for drivers of uninspiring US metal faced with those endless arrow-straight highways.

Anyway, with more than four million subscribers, it's an uncomfortable but unavoidable fact that some unlucky OnStar and GM customers will end their ownership experience with a short, sharp shock.

GM and OnStar plan to learn lessons from these unfortunate incidents, however. The latest OnStar system can collect and transmit real-time data detailing where a vehicle has been struck and whether it has rolled over. The firm expects to collect data on about 1,000 crashes of varying severity every month. With the occupants' permission, this vehicle data will be linked to medical information where a hospital visit is required.

Nobody wants to be in one of the unfortunate data-collecting vehicles, obviously, but no doubt we'd all appreciate travelling in future cars made safer as a result.

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