“We can track a $20 pizza, why can’t we track a $20,000 car?”
The question came up in a conversation between Arun Rajagopalan, cofounder and CEO of Motorq, and a fleet management company in late 2019. It referenced the pain points in the lifecycle of a vehicle before it lands in the hands of its end user.
Rajagopalan explains the series of phone calls between the factory, car carrier, dealer, fleet management company, or fleet operator to align the vehicle’s workflows to its location. “You order a vehicle, the plates and the titling guys have to come at the right time before the vehicle can roll off the lot,” he says, as one example. “I think for the almost 3 million vehicles sold every year to fleets, this is a big problem.”
For large fleets with an existing GM Fleet Account Number, that process has changed. Motorq, the connected car API company, and General Motors have integrated GM’s OnStar Pre-Delivery data service with Motorq’s cloud-based platform to allow fleet operators to identify and track the location of Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, and Cadillac vehicles throughout their logistics lifecycles. The service is available now.
With the benefit of OEM-embedded OnStar technology, the process is enacted with a software switch. Unlike an installed telematics device with a monthly service charge, this system allows for “surgical” enablement of data for a specific time period and under particular conditions. The user can stop and restart the flow of data as needed.
Wherever the vehicle is — on a railcar coming from a plant in Mexico, dropped at a shipping port, or on a dealer’s lot — the system will “wake up” the modem to receive data, put it back to sleep, and wake it back up to pull new data further along the journey. “We worked with GM on the specs to figure out how many times we can wake it up before we risk draining the battery,” Rajagopalan says. “All this stuff has been thought through.”
The Motorq system can also be used by dealers for lot management or in the remarketing process, or during titling and registration: “Wherever the workflows can be influenced by better logistical visibility across the supply chain,” he says.
The information is available in real time through a web-based portal and comes in an emailed report in which a user can click on any vehicle to see its breadcrumb trail to date.
In this instance, OnStar is the technology to activate the system; users don’t need a subscription. Motorq obtains consents from the asset owners and the ordering entities, and then it executes the consent workflows through automated software and API's.
For users of the system, the benefits are cost reductions in personnel to track potentially thousands of orders. As well, delivering vehicles sooner to customers allows them to generate revenue sooner, Rajagopalan says.
“We saw a huge opportunity to leverage the power of OnStar for an entirely new use case — helping fleet customers better track the location and status of their vehicles, many of which were mission-critical for the response to COVID-19,” said Ed Peper, U.S. vice president at General Motors Fleet, in a statement. “Our collaboration with Motorq enabled us to quickly solve a short-term problem and create a new long-term opportunity for our customers as well.”
While work and travel restrictions stemming from Covid-19 made this process even more difficult, Rajagopalan reconvened with fleet management companies during development to gauge interest in the idea. “The whole tracking of delivery after vehicle ordering was already a pain point, and then COVID-19 just exacerbated the problem,” he says. “We asked (our partners) if this was a COVID-19 thing, or a permanent thing? They said it’s a permanent thing. And then we put the pedal to the metal.”