If you were caught off-guard by this morning’s announcement of GM’s plan to build 4G LTE into its vehicles, you weren’t the only one. Below is GM Vice Chairman Steve Girsky‘s prepared speech to the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, where the executive announced the automaker’s strategy to embrace the next generation of wireless communication technology. A few things that caught our eye:
- Cars are also mobile devices… just several thousand pounds heavier than the smartphones people carry with them; coincidentally, cars deliver unmatched battery power and horsepower.
- The automobile is the original mobile device.
- “…we’ve only scratched the surface of what is possible when the automotive and wireless mexicoworlds converge.”
- Today, in-car technology is fast becoming one of the top consumer considerations in making a vehicle purchase.
- No other auto company will be putting this technology into as many vehicles in as many segments as GM, thereby bringing democracy to mobile wireless… a system for the masses.
- GM envisions a day when the car becomes just another device in a user’s wireless plan.
So without further ado, here’s Mr. Girsky’s full speech:
Thank you. It’s a pleasure for me to be here, and an honor for General Motors and our brands Cadillac, Chevrolet, Opel and Vauxhall, to participate in this event.
We’ve come here to discuss the evolution of the connected vehicle… the long-term evolution of the connected vehicle.
The pace of innovation driven by wireless connectivity in recent years has been unprecedented, and it will only accelerate.
In a few short years, we’ve seen a vast array of innovation in mobile devices. They’re getting smaller, faster, more powerful, and more intuitive every day. It’s hard not to laugh when you think of the mobile phone that you used five years ago … though it seemed so amazing at the time!
Well, guess what? We’re also seeing dramatic innovation in devices that are a few thousand pounds heavier … devices that you can’t carry, but can carry you… and can deliver unmatched battery power and horsepower.
I’m referring, of course, to the original mobile device, the automobile.
Wireless technology has played an important role in automotive advances in recent years, helping to move people more efficiently, and more safely.
But we’ve only scratched the surface of what is possible when the automotive and wireless worlds converge.
GM intends to lead this next wave of innovation … and we look forward to collaborating with many of you in this room to do so.
Together, we will really put the “mobile” in mobile.
GM has always been a mobility company.
What’s more, we’ve also been a technology company, with a list of innovations a mile long.
Before Cadillac introduced the electric starter in 1911, the only way to start a car was to bend down in front of it and turn a hand-crank, which was not only difficult but often dangerous.
In the 100 years since, GM has invented everything from the first automatic transmission to the first extended-range electric vehicle, the Chevrolet Volt / Opel Ampera.
Our Chevrolet brand offered the first built-in car radio in 1922. Today, through the audio system in the Chevrolet Spark and Sonic in North America, our customers can interact with Siri, Apple’s digital intelligent assistant. Another first.
And that same technology will appear in the second quarter in the all new Opel ADAM, an urban lifestyle city car; we’ll demonstrate Siri in the ADAM at the Geneva motor show in 10 days.
In recent years we’ve moved quickly to add new features in communications, navigation and entertainment. Today, in-car technology is fast becoming one of the top consumer considerations in making a vehicle purchase.
We’re not just trying to give our customers what they want; we’re working to develop what we think they will want in the future. Most importantly, we’ll deliver this technology to the customer in a safe manner, so drivers keep their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel.
Fortunately, we have experience with connected consumers, having introduced OnStar to the industry in the US and Canada 17 years ago with Verizon, and in China three years ago with China Telecom. We’re also launching OnStar in Mexico this summer with Telefonica.
OnStar was and remains a pioneer in the field. With three simple buttons, it revolutionized telematics, customer relationship management, safety and security, bringing peace of mind to millions of customers.
And it continues to deliver more than 25 industry-leading capabilities, ranging from stolen vehicle assistance to voice navigation, with live advisors available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Up till now, the automotive industry has focused largely on delivering entertainment, communications and safety capabilities within the vehicle, and on enabling many of the features that we love on our smartphones.
Our vision is to bring the customer’s digital life into the car, and bring the car into the customer’s digital life.
To do so requires a new way of thinking in the automotive industry.
We’re accustomed to three or four year development times, while the consumer electronics industry moves at 12-24 month cycles, and application development even faster.
Well, technology will enable us to shorten those lead times – a lot – at least as far as mobile wireless technology is concerned.
When we install the new system I’m about to announce, it will be fluid, and flexible.
Customers will be able to continuously update it with upgraded systems, software and apps, without having to buy a whole new vehicle.
Which makes sense, because when you buy a PC or a tablet, you’re continually upgrading and adding to it. You don’t have to purchase a whole new one.
We’ll take the same approach with our vehicles.
Moving down this path of innovation starts with two key questions: “What is possible to provide our customers?” And, “What do we need to get there?”
As for what’s possible, well, when we think of the connected consumer in the connected car, the answer is almost anything. The potential for innovation exists in many areas…
Entertainment and communications customized for the vehicle, such as rear seat streaming video, for just one example.
- Diagnostics and vehicle systems monitoring, including cameras that can transmit live images to you on demand, to show you what’s happening around your car while you’re away from it.
- Safety… Many of you are currently working on the roll-out of eCall in Europe … Through OnStar, we have personally witnessed the potential to save lives through automatic crash response – the hallmark service behind eCall.
- Navigation and location specific services
- New Urban Mobility Solutions
We’re exploring new possibilities for the vehicle to communicate with its environment to enhance safety, as well as to simplify and automate elements of the driving process.
As for the question, “What do we need to get there?” It’s clear to us that the first thing we need is fast, reliable, “active” connectivity embedded in our vehicles.
And today we’re announcing our plan to do just that.
GM is making a global commitment to embed 4G LTE technology in millions of vehicles across all our brands around the world, starting with Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac in the US and Canada as soon as next year, and then we’ll add it to other brands such as Opel/Vauxhall in Europe.
No other auto company will be putting this technology into as many vehicles in as many segments as we will.
We believe only this broad approach can begin to tap the full potential of the connected car.
People buying entry-level desire and deserve this connectivity as much as people buying Cadillacs.
We’re bringing democracy to mobile wireless… a system for the masses.
And let me be clear about one thing: This technology will be built in, not brought in. And it won’t be phone-dependent, either. It doesn’t matter what type of smartphone you have.
Near-term, this built-in 4G LTE connectivity will enable things like mobile wi-fi hotspots, broader infotainment options, and more advanced OnStar service options.
Longer-term, the higher bandwidth and responsiveness of 4G LTE, with speeds 10 times faster than 3G, will support a wide range of car-specific apps and functions, both those already in development and those we haven’t imagined yet.
And to help us imagine and develop those possibilities, we know we need partners. Lots of them.
We’re announcing our first carrier partner today, in fact.
AT&T will collaborate with us to enable 4G LTE in the US and Canada.
They won’t be just a connectivity provider; they’ll be our partner in developing and delivering new apps and services to customers.
You can see some of the concepts we’re exploring right here, in AT&T’s Connected City, where we have a Cadillac ATS and Chevrolet Malibu equipped with built-in 4G LTE capabilities.
I should point out that both Opel and Vauxhall, our mainstream brands in Europe, will be full beneficiaries of this technology.
In fact, here in Europe right now, we’re rolling out a new infotainment system for both brands, and the entire line-up will get this new system in the near future.
Looking further down the road, it’s impossible to predict exactly what mobile technology will look like, because of the endless possibilities I’ve described.
You may or may not be familiar with the American baseball legend Yogi Berra, but he once said something pertinent to this subject.
He said, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”
One thing we can be fairly certain about is this: the next wave of innovation will require a broad environment of collaboration and partnership. And expertise will come from many areas and different players.
It starts with many of you here today. We’ve already begun to collaborate with AT&T, a recognized leader and innovator in wireless broadband, and we look forward to working with others in the wireless industry.
The developer community will play a huge role in helping us shape the future of the connected car. Just last month at CES, we announced a new developers program and a new set of APIs to enable this community to work directly with our in-vehicle application platform to drive new innovation.
To maximize the potential of the connected consumer in the connected car, we’ll need insights and collaboration from technology partners, content providers, infrastructure developers, utilities, city planners, regulators, and industries from hospitality to health care to home improvement, and everyone in between.
The bottom line is, we envision a day when your car becomes just another device in your wireless plan.
And people may question the need, at first, just like they questioned the need for an iPad, or any other new device when it first arrives on the scene.
But, as we’ve seen, it doesn’t take long for people to move from “I’m never going to need that” … to “How did I ever live without that?”
The possibilities, like everything else in the mobile wireless industry, are virtually limitless.
What can we do, together, with these 3,000-pound mobile devices that deliver both miles per gallon and megabits per second?
We’ll surprise and delight drivers and passengers … we’ll streamline urban commuting … we’ll use resources more efficiently … and we’ll save lives.
And we’ll be doing things that haven’t been done before, and some that haven’t been imagined yet.
That’s exciting. And everyone at GM is excited to drive this industry into the future.
Thank you very much.