GM OnStar Mobile App Moves Beyond the Volt

General Motors (s GM) plans to roll out its OnStar smartphone app for a majority of the vehicles in its 2011 Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick and GMC lineups, the automaker said on Thursday. This comes at a time when GM has been positioning the Chevy Volt, an extended range electric vehicle launching later this year, as a showcase for this type of connected-car technology.

In January GM said the plug-in Chevy Volt will roll out equipped for remote control of battery charging and other vehicle functions via smartphones, and in May the automaker announced plans for version 2.0 of the Volt app to link with Google’s (s GOOG) Android and incorporate new location-based services using Google technology. But as OnStar President Chris Preuss commented last spring, the Volt app marked only a first step in a larger effort to expand OnStar (developed by Microsoft (s MSFT)) beyond safety and security services.

The app planned for GM’s upcoming 2011 lineup will include — in addition to information like odometer readings, fuel tank level and estimated range — a couple features that could serve to boost fuel economy, depending on drivers’ behavior. First, it will display the vehicle’s “lifetime miles-per-gallon,” designed to give an accurate reading as of the car’s last start. For competitive “hypermiler” types who need just a little feedback to inspire efforts to eke out every possible mile from a gallon of gas, that could be a useful tool, although it may not spur significant change in the grand scheme of fuel consumption.

In addition to the MPG reading, GM says the OnStar app (initially for iPhone and Android phones) will provide information on the current and recommended tire pressure. According to, having tires inflated to the proper pressure can boost gas mileage by up to 3.3 percent, while under-inflated tires can put a 0.3 percent dent in mileage for ever 1 psi drop in pressure on all four tires. According to GM’s release today, the apps for Chevy, Cadillac, Buick and GMC models will also offer a range of yet-to-be announced features “tailored specifically for each brand’s customers.”

These tools are hardly world-changing, but they could help to make fuel consumption top of mind for more drivers. If that awareness helps pressure automakers like GM to crank out more efficient, lower-emission models, then they’ll be worthwhile.

Image courtesy of GM

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