I usually know where I’m going and even when I don’t, I think I do — until I’m almost there and realize I don’t know. The point is I haven’t really paid much attention to navigation systems in new test cars because of this blind spot in my character. I know, tsk, tsk.
OnStar corralled a few auto journalists in the Hamptons this fall to talk about what’s new with its in-vehicle safety, security and communications services. This new OnStar system goes so far beyond navigation it needs an ungainly title.
OnStar is a 24/7 system, but its big advantage is that real people respond when you press the Blue OnStar Button in the vehicle to answer questions, help in emergencies, and find services. The connection to a real person is light-years ahead of pressing buttons surrounding a navigation screen.
The services include turn-by-turn navigation downloaded to your vehicle by the real person, roadside assistance, hands-free calling, automatic crash response, emergency services and remote door unlock and stolen vehicle assistance. OnStar, available on General Motors car and trucks, knows where the vehicle is and can send police before it reaches the chop shop. In the case of automatic crash response, the system, which is embedded in the vehicle, knows where you are even if you’re in a ditch and can’t be found by police.
With this update of the services and technologies, OnStar has added remote start, activation of horn and lights if you can’t remember where you parked your car, door locking and unlocking, which can be done securely and from a distance with your iPhone or any smart phone with a Droid platform. For example, you’re running to the gate about to miss your plane and you realize you forgot to lock your car — the OnStar app allows you to lock it from a distance.
The smart phone apps, which are free with either subscription level of OnStar, Safe and Sound for $199 a year or Directions and Connections for $299 a year, both include a monthly OnStar Vehicle Diagnostic report. The report checks all systems in the car. You can request a diagnostic report at any time by pressing the blue button and you can set up alerts for notifying you about low tire pressure or other issues that may be of concern.
OnStar is adding First Assist, which puts a qualified emergency service person in touch with you until help arrives if someone is injured — or say, delivering a baby.
OnStar is testing in-car social media interactions. You can speak your status updates and post them to Facebook or listen to your most recent news feed messages through the OnStar Virtual Advisor Service. Through a voice SMS (short message service) you can have text messages read to you through Bluetooth.
OnStar is a known brand. Only Ford Sync has the kind of brand recognition of OnStar, but Sync is more of an information and entertainment system that allows hands-free calling, navigation and a sync with your iPod.
OnStar stands apart with its safety and security focus. From July to September of this year OnStar processed about 315 million interactions with customers, including 3.7 million diagnostic reports, response to 10,000 emergency calls per month and almost 30,000 roadside assistance calls. OnStar is simply a great, well thought out, technically advanced product. — Kate McLeod, Motor Matters
Manufacturer photo: OnStar is launching new services, capabilities and technology for its nearly 6 million subscribers as part of a top-to-bottom realignment of the company’s long-term strategy built around “responsible connectivity.” The myGMC app includes OnStar MyLink features, such as remote door lock/unlock and vehicle diagnostics.