Wednesday, May 20, 2009

My letter to President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President,

I have a proposal to save the government, and therefore the US taxpayer (me), billions of dollars per year in both real, physical infrastructure spending as well as billions more related to the economic burden of congestion. Here’s how:

In the recent “Autopocalypse” unfolding, the US taxpayer has pumped over $15 billion into General Motors. While I am no bankruptcy expert, if GM seeks protection, as seems likely, I believe the taxpayer will see minimal, if any, return on that investment. GM is sitting on a HUGE asset to the public good, namely Onstar. GM has shipped over 16 million vehicles equipped with Onstar and is likely to ship 3 million more this year alone.

Onstar can collect data relating to average speed, weather conditions, incident reports and many other useful bits of data that today the federal and state governments spend billions to duplicate and disseminate to the public (road sensors, traffic monitors, cameras etc.). Due to cost, this information is only captured for the major metropolitan areas and is often an aggregation of sensors, 911 incident data, etc. By the time the DOT, and public sector aggregators transmit that data, it is often out of date. With over 16 million Onstar “probes” on the road today much of this information could be gathered in real-time without added infrastructure costs.

My proposal is to negotiate a non-exclusive right for the government to gain access to information from Onstar, in an obfuscated way, relating to speed, weather (wind shield wipers on / off, etc.), crash, etc. That information could replace physical infrastructure spend on street sensors, cameras, etc. Additionally, it could provide more current real-time traffic, weather, etc. data that both the public and the private sectors could aggregate (like they do now from the DOT) and disseminate to consumers in a way that would reduce commute times and accidents.

The NHTSA estimated “The 2000 economic costs of U.S. highway crashes, excluding the cost imposed on society by travel delays and wage-risk premiums, was $205 billion (Blincoe et al., 2002)”. Having data from Onstar could help reduce accidents, and therefore costs, related to traffic, but perhaps more importantly direct costs related to congestion. Some studies suggest congestion costs as much as $222 billion dollars / year (see:

I think licensing this specific content would not decrease viability of GM, Onstar or any company trying to purchase Onstar assets as Onstar does not currently leverage this data.

So in summary, before allowing GM to sell off Onstar assets or loose this critical opportunity to leverage the money the taxpayer has already spent with GM, please consider my proposal:

· License GM / Onstar sensor / “probe” data (current and future) in an obfuscated way (to protect privacy concerns) – You don’t have to have the IT in place to use it yet, just negotiate the license!
· Save physical infrastructure costs related to congestion information for the taxpayer
· Gain more real-time information related to road conditions, congestion, incidents, weather than ever before
· Leverage the investment made in GM and Onstar by the US taxpayer
· Act quickly before this valuable asset is removed from access.

Thank you for your consideration.

Warmest Regards,

Andrew Poliak

P.S. I think this is a political “freebee” as I can’t think of a constituent you would be disappointing.