New Car/Review

OnStar

by Annabelle Frankl

There was a time when locking one's keys in the car was considered a rather stupid thing to do, and proved most inconvenient for those left outside, at the mercy of the elements. Well, not any more. Obviously the 'stupid' stigma still lingers, but the inconvenience does not...as long as you've got OnStar. A quick phone call and, hey presto, the doors are open. (Well, as long as the cell phone didn't get locked inside too!)

OnStar is, basically, the 'human' equivalent of having a GPS display in your car. Rather than twiddle with all the knobs and try and find the restaurant/road/shop etc that you're looking for, simply hit the blue button and help will be at hand. OnStar people are waiting for your call 24/7, no matter how trivial your request may seem. As soon as you hit the button, all the prescient information is 'beamed up', so that your operator knows your VIN number and precise location, and you can get on with the matter at hand.

Evidently, the concierge element of the technology is all rather handy, and is likely, we hope, to consist of the most usefulness. However, it is in emergencies that the benefits shine through. Should your airbag deploy in your car, OnStar is immediately notified and will contact you in your car to ensure you are alright. If there is no answer, the emergency services are alerted. Furthermore, with MED-NET, all of your medical information is kept on record - from allergies to medications - so you can receive help more efficiently.

OnStar can diagnose your vehicle if, for instance, the 'check engine' sign comes on, and you're unsure of whether it's serious or not. One too many glasses at the pub? OnStar will call you a taxi, or even contact a friend or relative to come and retrieve you. And, should your vehicle be stolen, OnStar works with the authorities to track it and get it back. Unfortunately, I understand that they are against tracking down wayward spouses/partners, which would seem like a fundamental function of the whole system!

And then there's Virtual Advisor. Can't bear to be parted from your laptop? Missing checking your email? Well, now you can check your stocks, get the weather, sports results and your email, all from behind the wheel. No screen, no keypad, just voice commands and all the info you need on the tip of your tongue. Each customer first sets up their individual webpage at MyOnStar.com, with individual preferences and so on, and then you're ready to go.

I found my OnStar assisters to be very helpful (and clearly-spoken too). Of course, the first time I tried the system, at 12.05am, Friday, I was on hold for 5 minutes and found where I was going just as someone answered the call. Typical. But, since then, no more than about a minute of waiting time, and clear reception. However, given that the US, compared to Europe, is still somewhat behind in its cellular coverage area, this is the one aspect that gives me cause for concern. One can only receive assistance when there is a signal, and given how many times I get cut off when I'm just driving around town, I worry for when I'm lost in the middle of nowhere. OnStar does, at least, use the old analogue system, which has a broader coverage area.

OnStar offers two packages:

Safety & Security Plan

Emergency services
Automatic Notification of Airbag Deployment
Stolen VehicleTracking
Roadside Assistance w/ Location
Remote Diagnostics
Remote Door Unlock
OnStar Med-Net
Accident Assist

Premium Service Plan

All of the "Safety & Security Plan" services plus
Routing Support
Convenience Services
Concierge Services
Ride Assist

The first year is free. S & S costs $199 per year, or $16.95 per month. PP costs $39 per year, or $34.95 per month. To actually install OnStar in your vehicle costs $695 for hardware and installation.


For additional information about OnStar visit: www.onstar.com


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