Connected cars and GM’s Vehicle Locate service

More and more vehicles can now connect to the internet, opening up a world of safety and convenience services. Equipped with a SIM card and a paid-up data plan, these cars can communicate with owners through a smartphone app. We think that's kinda helpful.

Typically the apps let you view data, diagnostics and trouble-shooting messages from the convenience of your phone. Some turn your smartphone into a key fob, letting you remotely unlock, lock, start or stop your car from your phone. The apps come with subscription-based support services, which connect you to a real person and can include anything from accident and emergency support to step-by-step navigation instructions and concierge-style advice on the nearest place to buy something.

Enter Vehicle Locate

In early 2019, General Motors added a new opt-in service called Vehicle Locate. It’s available to owners of eligible GMC, Buick, Chevrolet or Cadillac models from 2012 onwards. Using the iOS or Android app designed for their car, owners can now find their vehicle by asking to see its location on a map. With good connectivity and GPS signals, it can locate your car in a matter of seconds. Owners can also enter geographic boundaries, with a radius of 20 miles (32km) right down to a specific location. They can then ask Vehicle Locate to send a text message whenever their car exits or enters the selected area, or leaves or arrives at a set location. They can also choose up to 10 people to receive any one of those text alerts

Safety and peace of mind

Apart from finding your car when you can’t remember where you parked it, Vehicle Locate opens up all sorts of helpful possibilities. It can automatically send a hands-free text message to friends or family whenever you get close to home. Also, monitoring friends or children driving your car is a breeze, promoting safety and peace-of-mind. If a teen is driving your car to and from school for example, you and selected other people can automatically be notified each time the young driver leaves and safely arrives.

Privacy concerns

So what about privacy issues? Well, there is no way for the person driving the car to know whether location information is being requested by the owner or text messages are being sent from the car to the owner. GM says it is up to the owner to advise users of their vehicle about the settings that have been activated, if any. Only the owner can turn the services on or off, by logging into their account on the app.

Obviously, if someone steals your car or uses it without your permission, privacy is of little concern. There’s also the ability for people receiving notification texts from Vehicle Locate to opt out. The best way is to simply reply with the word STOP.

A step up from Family Link

Vehicle Locate replaces an earlier General Motors service called Family Link, which was web-based. The new service incorporates all the Family Link features, but is only accessible through the GM owners’ app. Owners of more than one vehicle can now add up to 10 to their account and access each one from the app.

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