Feeds

back to article Gentlemen, start your engines – with your phone!

OnStar will soon let users unlock their cars, activate the horn, check the fuel and oil levels and even start the engine, all from the comfort of their smartphone handset. The OnStar service is run by General Motors and puts an embedded mobile phone into every car. The device was initially intended to automatically report …

COMMENTS

This topic is closed for new posts.

"and start the engine from anywhere in the world"

... which will make you an instant criminal if the car happens to be in the UK at the time, where it is illegal to have the engine running in an unattended vehicle.

5
0
Pint

I guess you've never visited Kapuscasing, Ontario, Canada in thw winter!

When at it's coldest in Kap, car engines have to be run for about 10 minutes to heat up, even their engine block heaters were plugged in overnight. Then you have to put the brakes on and place the gearbox in drive, which warms up the transmission oil.

Before rushing off you have to let your car slowly roll forwards, at it's own speed so the differential will unfreeze. BTW that lumpy feeling you detect as you roll off at the frozen 'flats' where the tires touched the ground.

YES, there is a need/use for this feature. Britain will need it when global warming stops the Gulf Stream, soon, and Britain gets much colder in the winter.

Kapuscasing, BTW, is DM's cold weather test center and is south of Hudson's Bay.

P.S. The horn sounding feature allows you to find your car when it's buried in several thousand others in a parking lot!

2
0

and also ...

"remotely trigger the lights"

More usually done with the ordinary remote locking

"and horn"

That would also be illegal ... unless the phone was also capable of *moving* the vehicle at the time it sounds the horn. And come to think of it, there's probably also a law against remotely *moving* a vehicle, so sounding the horn wouldn't be legal even if you could move the vehicle at the same time.

0
0
Silver badge

@and also...

... It's not illegal to sound the horn in a stationary (or even parked) vehicle if a) it's on private land instead of the public highway or b) to alert another road user of a hazard (eg some idiot about to reverse into you)

0
0

Hmm

Is anyone else concerned about the potential for vehicles being hacked? I don't particularly wish to be mown down by a car that some local script kiddie has figured out how to override some key fly-by-wire system in. I'm also very concerned with manufacturers acting responsibly over this- often their response to technical problems in the past has been to deny responsibility.

3
0

The title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.

Yep, my thoughts exactly. There have been articles on this site already about the wireless systems in cars being hacked (can't be arsed to find the articles.) Adding a smartphone interface is just increasing the complexity of the security needed.

I worry enough about the internet facing servers I have to maintain being hacked. And no one's going to die if they do get hacked. But a car on the other hand is a whole new ball game. Thankfully, I have an old banger where the most complicated computer is the one running the dashboard clock.

I really can't see that this has any practical use and it looks like another pointless bit of "must-have" gadgetry for people with too much money and small todgers. The only use I can think of is being able to pre-heat the seats and de-ice the windows before you go out to the car on a cold morning and many cars have that ability already on the key fob. No need for a $500 smartphone.

0
0
Coat

RE: Arkasha

I can't be the only one to see cars 10 years from now running AVG antivirus and getting regular updates.

Windows in cars could well be a disaster, i've already seen an ATM shut down and i never even knew they ran Windows before then.

Imagine people being late for work because they forgot to charge their electric car or unable to start the engine because of automatic updates

Disasterous!

1
0
Silver badge

Three words.

Do. Not. Want.

0
0
FAIL

This will cause problems.

In the UK it's illegal for a car to be on a road with the engine running when you're not in the car.

At least when prats do this currently you can remove their keys and drop them down the nearest drain. (I throw them under the seat, if I'm feeling kind.)

UK Highway Code 123 : "You MUST NOT leave a parked vehicle unattended with the engine running"

0
0
Silver badge
WTF?

Solution looking for a problem

Why?!! Unless you can instruct the car to come and collect you, what purpose does this serve?

The obvious drawback is if you are mugged and your phone is stolen. Jonny Deviant has a quick look and finds the car app installed. He uses it to locate your car, unlock it and drive off. You're left nursing your injuries, unable to contact the emergency services or drive yourself to the nearest A&E/police station.

1
0
Megaphone

Twitter integration

So I could constantly tweet my location, direction and speed to all and sundry - more web 2.0 nonsense for all.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

start the engine with your phone

wow that doesn't sound highly dangerous and unnecessary.

Then again this is America we're talking about. Sooner or later the app will allow them to remotely load and trigger their firearms too. So they can sit on the couch running people over and shooting them in the face without any of the grind or tedium that one would inevitably experience if one weighed 400lbs.

7
0
Thumb Down

start the engine with your phone →

Grand theft auto, for real?

0
0
Anonymous Coward

unlock their cars etc remotely.

And what could possibly go wrong with that?

0
0
Thumb Up

This is for US.....

where we already had remote start for many years :) Now I may start the car to warm up in winter from my desk, 15 minutes before quitting time, instead of having to walk to the window first, due to the limited range of my remote, and I may start it reliably regardless of which corner of the lot I park.

Based on the comments left by others, it looks like you guys have to wait in your cars in winter for the car to warm up instead of using a remote starter?! This would be cruel and unusual on this side of the pond :) Re blowing up the horn, I can see why it would be very useful in a normal mall setting here in US - a normal remote does not even begin to have the range needed for a US mall parking lot.

0
3
Anonymous Coward

Its ok for americans

Have you seen the cost of petrol/diesel in the UK? no sane person would leave their car running for 15 minutes happily wasting fuel. May as well burn money to heat the car up

3
0
Silver badge

@AC

Do you know how much fuel is used on tick-over for a modern diesel? About 0.1 litres/hr for a 2 litre engine. Fuck all in the scheme of things. Pulling away with a touch too much lead in the boot is far more of an issue.

0
0
Unhappy

Solution to *some* problems, cause of some more

Being able to start your car remotely and let it warm up would be a useful feature on cold mornings, especially if you're somewhere that *really* gets cold.

However it creates a problem for safety. What happens if the car's been left in gear, for instance? This isn't something that can easily be retrofitted to an engine management system, because ultimately a lot of engine management system failure modes end up with the driver having to do something, even if it's only steering the car to the side of the road when the engine cuts out. If there's no driver behind the wheel, that's a big change to your safety case.

Red Bren, you seem to be missing a clue there. If you've been mugged, they'll have your car keys, and if the car's visible then pressing the lock button will flash the lights. So there's no obvious drawback there.

0
0

Automatic

Most merkin cars have automatic gearboxes and can not be left in anything other than Park ao this is not an issue for them.

0
0

Crawler

Does the "park" position also apply a brake? If not there should be enough torque transmitted to

allow your car to crawl away if you forgot to apply the handbrake.

As for those people who want to run the engine for 15 minutes before getting in,

have you forgotten that you can buy winter clothes?

0
0
Bronze badge
Thumb Up

Got it

Already have this. Just stuck a Mini-ITX box in my clapped out Ford Mondeo and did the same. It's amazing what you can do with a fanless VIA processor and a couple of cables and £10 gadgets.

Stick a £10 serial GPS in and you have a tracking system to see how fast the kids have been going (not that I have any that age yet). I used a bluetooth one and a cheap bluetooth dongle and hey presto! Instant car-wide bluetooth functionality.

Stick a £10 audio cable round the car and plug it into any modern radio that takes "aux" input and you have an entertainment device of unlimited capacity.

Stick a £10 3G dongle and you can live-track the GPS, or enable automatic vehicle tracking (if it gets nicked), or have it text you if it moves outside a certain area, or report in every know and again with websites.

Stick a £10 Wifi dongle on it and your passengers get the full Internet while you drive (I DO NOT use this thing myself while driving - I don't even have a satnav in eye-shot, because I'm so vehement about such things).

Stick a £10 OBD-II cable on it and you have automatic monitoring and recording of the engine, queriable remotely (which, along with GPS tracks, is basically a complete accident-black-box system). My car is too old to do everything OBD but I can still pull enough useful info to convince my (mechanic) father to check his own personal car for useful info with an OBD device (not just "engine fault" but everything from load percentage to road speed to engine temperatures to fuel gauges etc.).

Stick a £10 USB interface board on it (and some glue electronics / relays) and you can do anything from controlling the lights, activating the ignition, winding down the windows or anything else you feel like doing - lovely 12v-DC-only systems that just work.

And power? I can run it for 24 hours off something no bigger than a house alarm battery which can charge whenever you drive "for free", or you can set the PSU to time itself off however-many minutes after the ignition goes off and run it off your main battery. I think mine did 10W last I checked, which is about the same as an indicator bulb or interior light.

Wake on serial etc. mean a tiny timer circuit can be used to switch the thing back on again if the car alarm goes off, you activate it via remote phone, etc.

Wouldn't *TOUCH* a car with this stuff built-in though. They always go too mad and end up making it the ONLY way to open the car and such nonsense.

4
0
Bronze badge

pimp my ride

This kind of system has been available for years, generally using SMS rather than a web connection, you text the car alarm and it will start the engine.

However it serves no real purpose

0
0
Gold badge
WTF?

Gosh, that's clever.....

.....oh, no it isn't.

I remember a colleague telling me about the car he had in the USA which allowed him to "blip" it through the office window 500yds away to start the engine, so it was all toasty warm when he went out to it.

That was all of a decade ago.

As for the other functions, I can't quite see how knowing how much fuel is in it before you get to it (and can actually do something about it) is of any use at all, unless you're the sort of complete dickhead who neglects to look at the fuel gauge when setting off somewhere. Then again you'd need a very special sort of dickhead, who would remember to fire up and look at their iPhone app's fuel gauge while also forgetting to look at the car's own one, to make it worthwhile.

As for the remaining oil life, that puzzled me for a bit. Then I remembered that one of the notable things that seperates Yank automotive forums from those elsewhere is this strange obsession with oil. They agonise about grades, additives, lifespan-for-this-type-of-usage and such endlessly, while the rest of us top it up once in a while and change it when the service interval comes around, using whatever is specified in the handbook.

One thing that would appear to be missing is the ability to specify which brand of tyre you have on and then have it come up with a recommended tyre rotation strategy according to some voodoo calculation (another weird automotive obsession unique to the Septics).

1
0
Silver badge
Unhappy

Computers in cars

Sadly, the evidence suggests that car manufacturers have ignored most of the lessons learned from 20 years of general-purpose computing. I used to think the problem was limited to clunky UIs with deep menu structures, but this is much more alarming.

Experience shows that almost any system that has network connections will be penetrated. It seems that the security systems in on-board computers leave a lot to be desired. A few months ago there was a Reg article linking to a fascinating paper about how easy they are to hack. The researchers were able to control the engine, brakes and lights in a moving car. The only security feature was that you needed physical access to the vehicle to install a radio receiver - it looks like that safeguard has just been removed.

My own car has a built-in "phone" that's used for emergency calls, web browsing and a rather pointless application that lets me send locations from Google Maps to the car. I don't think anyone hates me enough to use it to crash my car remotely, but I wonder how vulnerable to theft such a car is.

Part of the problem is that it's almost impossible to find out anything about the system running in a car. One has to suspect that this may be an attempt at security through obscurity.

0
0
Silver badge

Oh no

A chum of mine has a french car, which uses a proximity-detected card to enable things. You don't need to stick it in a slot, just have it in the car.

So last week his wife dropped him at the airport, and he went off with the card in his pocket, but she still had the engine running so she was able to set off for home.

She stopped to do some shopping, only to discover that she was 200KM from home, had just stopped the engine and had no way to start it again.

Genius.

This idea is just as daft.

0
0
FAIL

Already been done

Take a look-see here:

-- http://www.leftlanenews.com/gone-in-20-minutes-using-laptops-to-steal-cars.html

Apparently, David Beckham had a couple BMW X5s nicked in this manner...

0
0
Happy

wouldn't it be more useful

to be able to turn the bloody thing off if it got twocked?

Actually, if it did get nicked, I'd like to be able to take over the steering and lock the doors.

'Sit back in your seat, sonny, and enjoy the ride. It might be your last. Did you know this car can drive underwater. Let's find a river....

0
0
Silver badge
Pint

Engine off? Been there, done that!

OnStar has an engine disabling feature.

Rent any GM car in the U.S. and go outside your agreed area of usage and see how effective it is when the rental agency stops your wanderings.

1
0
Silver badge
Black Helicopters

Should be popular with Mafia and Terrorists, maybe the alternate IRA

This will be very handy for remote starting cars to see if US operatives have placed bombs on board.

Al Quaida and the IRA subset could rewire horn circuit to TRIGGER bombs/UIDS.

Real smart GM.

1
0
This topic is closed for new posts.