Hospital emergency room people would be able to save much more lives if they had the medical files of injured drivers and passengers directly at their disposal after an accident. General Motors has taken a big step into this direction. By the end of this year, the new Opel Omega will be equipped with the optional OnStar system, which integrates a medical file into the car as the latest but very efficient novelty. OnStar was introduced in 1996 on 3 Cadillac models as a dealer installed option. Twenty-one GM models were added in 1997 and, in 1999, OnStar launched its second-generation three-button system as standard equipment on Cadillac Escalade, and as optional on eleven additional models.
OnStar announced that its services will be included in nearly one million General Motors cars and trucks within the next eighteen months to come. This will dramatically increase the subscriber base from the current level of 75.000. OnStar is the new in-vehicle safety, security and information service which uses Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite technology and wireless communication to link the driver and vehicle to the 24-hour OnStar Center, where advisors provide real-time, person-to-person help.
OnStar allows drivers to travel with greater confidence and peace of mind. Factory installation of OnStar will expand the availability of this innovative service to a million GM drivers beginning in the 2000 model year, as stated by Ronald L. Zarrella, executive vice president of GM and president of North America Operations. Via Mednet, all the driver's relevant medical data will immediately become accessible for the ambulance services and the hospital at the moment of the accident.
Onstar managing director Chet Huber recalled a subscriber in Texas who was involved in an accident which caused the vehicle to leave the roadway and enter a lake. The impact deployed the air bags, which sent a signal to an OnStar advisor describing the exact location of the accident. The advisor reassured the driver that help was on the way and notified emergency service personnel who arrived at the scene within four minutes.
Initial consumer response to OnStar's standard equipment availability on the Cadillac Escalade last autumn has been highly favourable and has provided the learning to allow for this expansion, according to Zarrella. Already since 1996, the OnStar system is being built into various Cadillac models in the United States, but up till now without the medical file. These three years of in-market experience have shown that customers value OnStar as a service that delivers a safer, more secure and enjoyable driving experience.
OnStar has received more than one million calls from subscribers, including emergency requests since the system was introduced, as claimed by Huber who states that many of the drivers have told that OnStar literally saved their lives. In addition to emergency calls, OnStar offers stolen vehicle tracking, remote door unlock, remote vehicle diagnostics, route support, convenience services locator and concierge services.
As for the medical file, it is still unclear at present who will be responsible for the input, the changes, the information update and the correctness of data. Doctors fear that a multitude of electronic medical files will emerge of which the accuracy might be doubtful. Therefore, the hospitals will claim absolute certainty about the fact whether the file data matches the driver's identity and vice versa. Such correspondence can only be achieved in combination with the presence of biometric data in the car. However, given the great risk of legal claims in the United States especially, General Motors will only use technology which is 100 percent proven.