Chevrolet took a decisive step towards autonomous cars on Thursday, announcing an unlimited data plan for cars equipped with an OnStar 4G LTE Wi-fi hotspot. The plan will allow internet access for passengers without any data caps, a future setup that self-driving cars will need to share vital data on the road.
“We have contractors bidding jobs in their Silverados, families streaming movies in their Suburbans and Malibus and everyone tapping into the cloud for music,” Alan Batey, president of GM North America and global head of Chevrolet, said in a statement.
The plan, offered by AT&T at a price of $20 per month starting from March 3, builds on Chevrolet’s past successes. It was the first car maker to offer LTE connections across the retail lineup, and since launching in June 2014, it’s sold 3.1 million LTE-enabled cars, more than any other company.
Streaming movies on the go may seem like a frivolous use of cellular connectivity, but the lessons learned in connecting cars sets the groundwork for future advancements in autonomous vehicles. These cars will use powerful 5G connections to transmit collision data to nearby cars, enabling them to avoid obstacles with greater accuracy.
The cars will also use their sensors to build up maps, which can then get relayed back to manufacturers. Mobileye is working with BMW and Volkswagen to pool data together and create more accurate self-driving car maps than before. This feature is rolling out on existing non-autonomous vehicles to build up data prior to the transition.
Chevrolet’s Wi-fi hotspot feature has proven popular so far, with Chevrolet owners downloading over four million gigabytes worth of information last year, a 200 percent increase compared to the previous year. Data usage continues to grow: in the second half of last year, owners used nearly as much data as they had in the prior two years, the point at which OnStar first launched.