GM Announces New Smartphone App for its Chevy Volt

General Motors will soon make its Chevy Volt electric car available to U.S. consumers, and with it, a powerful mobile application developed by OnStar that allows drivers to control some functions of the car from miles away.

The OnStar Mobile App will work with your iPhone, iPod Touch, Blackberry Storm or Motorola Droid, and allows you to monitor or control some of the Volt’s electronics including the battery charger, door locks, horn and air conditioning system. The OnStar App was unveiled in Las Vegas this week in anticipation of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) which runs Thursday through Sunday of this week.

The CES is the world’s largest electronics show and is being used increasingly by automakers that are trying to make their vehicle technology work well with consumer communications and entertainment devices. Widespread use of technology like the OnStar Mobile App and Ford’s Sync is inevitable as consumers come to expect functions like Internet, satellite music, and navigation to be available in the vehicles they drive.

The Volt’s mobile app will lock and unlock the car doors and sound the horn to help you find your car in a crowded parking lot. It will show on a simple screen the level of charge in the battery, how many miles you can travel on that charge plus and how many miles per gallon you are getting from the vehicle’s gasoline engine backup system (something OnStar calls the “brag bar”). The Volt can’t be started without a key, but you can turn the air conditioning or heat on from miles away.

The mobile app is free and available at the iPhone App Store. If you don’t have a smartphone, you can access the features from the OnStar Web site.

Thilo Koslowski, head of the automotive practice at Gartner, a technology research firm, says this is only the beginning of what buyers can expect in a new car. Phones may even be widely used as a key fob in more GM vehicles in the future.

“The car is the ultimate mobile device,” says Koslowski.

More features available through the OnStar Mobile App for the Chevy Volt include charging or scheduling a charge when the car is plugged in and receiving texts/emails from the car as a reminder to charge, when the charge is complete or if charging has been interrupted.

Koslowski noted, “Ultimately all of that will make it easier for consumers to feel good about purchasing an electric vehicle and operating it.”

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