GM OnStar Go taps IBM Watson for in-car marketing

Melissa Burden
The Detroit News

General Motors Co. and IBM Corp. late Tuesday said they are partnering to provide the auto industry’s first cognitive mobility platform to provide personalized marketing offers to millions of drivers beginning early next year.

The companies said OnStar Go will use Watson’s cognitive learning, or artificial intelligence capabilities, in a car to offer deals and advice in the vehicle dashboard. The system could help a driver avoid traffic, warn if a driver is low on fuel, turn on a gas pump and pay for your gas from the vehicle dashboard or order a cup of coffee while en route to a favorite coffee spot.

Initial brand partners include MasterCard, ExxonMobil, Glympse, iHeartRadio and Parkopedia. It expands upon OnStar’s AtYourService, which was announced in January 2015, and offers deals from retailers. OnStar is a GM subsidiary that provides subscription based emergency, security, navigation and embedded Wi-Fi connectivity services along with adviser assistance.

ExxonMobil will use the technology to help consumers find gas stations and authorize a payment from inside the car. MasterCard will allow drivers and passengers to make payments for items and services from their cars through credit or debit cards stored in Masterpass, which will be embedded in OnStar Go.

“On average, people in the U.S. spend more than 46 minutes per day in their car and are looking for ways to optimize their time,” said Phil Abram, executive director of GM Connected Products and Strategy, in a statement. “By leveraging OnStar’s connectivity and combining it with the power of Watson, we’re looking to provide safer, simpler and better solutions to make our customers’ mobility experience more valuable and productive.”

Analysts have hailed GM’s longtime OnStar system and service as a profit generator. The company, by the end of the year, expects to have 12 million connected vehicles on the road with Wi-Fi hotspots that allow the flow of information and data.

The companies said the system would be available in more than 2 million vehicles in the United States that feature 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspots by the end of 2017. It also will be available to millions of GM-brand app mobile devices.

Watson will be able to learn a driver’s preferences, if the driver gives consent, and companies working with IBM and OnStar can tailor location-based deals in vehicles. The system could even remind a dad to pick up formula or diapers at a store a few miles before his exit.

“IBM and GM are changing the whole notion of where valuable, daily rituals occur,” said Paul Papas, global leader of IBM iX, in a statement. “The combination of IBM Watson and industry-leading OnStar connectivity will enable vehicles with intelligent-branded skills and services to empower drivers and passengers.”

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