GM Designer Explains OnStar Car Hero Concept

Illustration for article titled GM Designer Explains OnStar Car Hero Concept

The last thing we expected when calling out the GM Onstar Car Hero concept in yesterday's Design Challenge post was an email from the designer. Steve Anderson shot us an email to listen to our criticisms and explain his concept.


The GM Onstar Car Hero was pitched in the press release in the following manner:

The Car Hero turns driving into gaming and challenges the driver's skills against the car's autonomous system. Once you enter your destination into the navi app on your smart phone, you can play against the vehicle to "win" complete control over the system and gain access to increasingly outrageous driving scenarios.

Naturally, our response was something trite and snarky: "Whoever came up with the "GM Car Hero" needs a very stern talking to." We didn't expect the following email exchange:

Hi Ben,

I'm all ears.

Steve Anderson
Design Challenge Creative Director,
General Motors Design - Los Angeles

Next came our response:

Well, that's a hilarious response I wasn't expecting.

The quip about your concept was in keeping with our general attitude
towards vehicles which isolate drivers from cars and mitigate the driving
experience. While I appreciate the concept as something which might
appeal to guitar hero kids, it still puts control out of the drivers hands and
makes the car a gaming appliance, something that makes me recoil in


Ben Wojdyla
Associate Editor - Detroit

Then came Steve Anderson's responde explaining the concept in more detail:

Hi Ben,

Thanks for the response. As a qualified nut-case auto enthusiast (own:
Lotus Elise SC Jim Clark Edition & CTS Sport Wagon owned: '61 E Type OTS,
Lamborghini Countach LP400, 4 911's of various vintage and a BMW M
Coupe), I completely agree with your appliance assesment.

The Car Hero concept would (theoretically) do just the opposite of what
you're concerned for by introducing (to the youth audience) the
familiarity of a gaming challenge to what has in essence become a commoditized
appliance. The benefit being that you end up "challenging" the operator
to either learn or improve their road skills as well as provide an incentive
to stay engaged and improve their skills - imagine if you'd had this
instead of the traditional driver's ed program. To your concern for
taking control out of the driver's hands, I think we can both agree that many
actually deserve such a draconian device but the Car Hero differs as it
gives the operator a chance to gain skills and "earn" un-obstructed
vehicle control. As one wag aptly put it, "Essentially this will not only make
people better drivers, but will also allow expert road stallions to have
a continuous challenge". Of course, they can also take the Timothy Leary
tack and "drop out" of the whole driving thing altogether - let the vehicle's
embedded autonomous control system do it all while they twitter away.

The desired outcome of Car Hero use would be someone who truly
appreciates driving skills and goes on to seek out a more authentic experience once
the gaming novelty has worn off.

In the end, the challenge was to create a vehicle which re-engaged the
"de-motorized" youth of tomorrow and I thought it foolish to create just
another car.

Thanks for the dialog,
Steve Anderson

Then our response to clarification:

That's a pretty interesting take on it. I hope you realize this is now very


Ben Wojdyla
Associate Editor - Detroit

And finally, grudging acceptance on the part of Mr. Anderson:

By all means - keep up the good work.

Steve Anderson

So there you go. We actually think Mr. Anderson makes a pretty good case for his concept.



Xazzaphonic (previously known as Vicarious-Chair)

Originally, I was going to write a post on how video games don't teach us or gear us towards anything. Then I tried using the example of guitar hero. I then realized Guitar Hero was a great incentive for me to learn guitar. Then I tried using Rock Band's Drums, but again, I crave to get a drum set now.

So yeah, this sounds like a cool idea; but what differs it from other simulators like Gran Turismo and Forza? Those are both amazingly realistic and could set us up for stick-shift. (The way I see it, the more people driving stick, the less they're using their phones; making more of the focus on driving.) #conceptcars