The grand-daddy of Telematics Systems

OnStar Button Logo

OnStar Button Logo (copyright GM)


Let’s start our review of telematics systems with the one that really got everything going – General Motor’s OnStar system.

First, OnStar isn’t just a system. It is a subsidiary corporation of GM founded in 1995. This should give you a clue about GM’s commitment to this system. Services offered by OnStar include hands free calling, turn-by-turn navigation, remote vehicle diagnostics and probably the best known feature of all – automatic crash response.

Automatic crash response is just that – a vehicle system that senses certain vehicle functions and, if necessary, alerts emergency medical personnel via a live GM OnStar advisor. In addition, because of the time-in-service of the system, GM has accumulated a significant amount of data from over 170,000 crash scenes (which translates to something over 10,000 per year on average). This data has provided for post-crash analysis, which has in fact assisted in optimizing response scenarios by first responders. OnStar emergency advisors receive additional training in order to provide better data to first responders.

Another feature that has been widely touted is the ability to remotely slow the vehicle to a stop if stolen. Rather than just cutting the power, the system slowly reduces throttle response so that the vehicle doesn’t lose control or cause any additional safety concerns. In addition, once turned off, remote ignition block can prevent the vehicle from being restarted.

The system, as good as it is, does have some limitations. When receiving turn-by-turn directions from an advisor, the user cannot be using their hands-free phone at the same time, according to the GM OnStar advisor that we spoke with. That could significantly reduce the value of the system to heavy phone users that also travel in unfamiliar territory, such as outside sales consultants or real estate professionals that might have a need to use both at the same time. There is no real substitute for a good on-board navigation system, whether your car is a GM, a Nissan, or anything else for that matter.

One interesting bit that we discovered doing our research for this article, is the upcoming availability of OnStar in non-GM vehicles, or older vehicles that did not come equipped with the system. GM has partnered with Best Buy Electronics to make available an aftermarket inside rear view mirror than incorporates the auto crash response, bluetooth, turn-by-turn directions, and roadside assistance of in-vehicle OnStar systems. According to Best Buy’s website, the product will not be available online. So we went to our neighborhood Best Buy to check it out. While there was a display set up with some brochures, the sales associate did not know if they had any in stock or what the price would be if they did. Once they get the wrinkles sorted out in the information flow, this could be a satisfactory alternative for some.

Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at the Nissan CARWINGS system, and some of the features that it brings to the table for Nissan LEAF owners.

This entry was posted in Industry News, Is the Nissan LEAF right for me?, LEAF Information. Bookmark the permalink.

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