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OnStar Enters Retail Aftermarket, Demos Prototype 4G Apps

1/05/2011 11:09:43 AM Eastern
Las Vegas - GM's OnStar subsidiary will begin selling its service through the retail aftermarket in the spring when it begins offering a rearview mirror with embedded OnStar technology.

  OnStar also came to CES to demonstrate prototype applications of entertainment, communications and safety features that would be enabled by Verizon's 4G network, including video streaming services that would be available only to back-seat occupants or to all occupants when the car is not moving.

  In a bid to expand its total addressable market beyond owners of newer GM vehicles, the company announced here at CES a rearview mirror with embedded GPS, cellular, Bluetooth and accelerometer at a suggested $299, excluding installation costs estimated at $75 to $100. The mirror offers OnStar's key services, including automatic crash response, emergency assistance, turn-by-turn navigation, stolen vehicle location assistance, one-button access to emergency and roadside services, and hands-free calling. Service to the rearview mirror costs the same as service to OEM OnStar systems, with subscription tiers starting at $18.95/month or $199/year.

  The mirror, like OEM OnStar systems, connects to the OnStar service via the Verizon Wireless cellular network.

 The rearview mirror will launch through Best Buy as OnStar's preferred national retailer as well as through independent and regional mobile electronics specialists and consumer electronics retailers that offer installation. Ingram Micro is distributing the product.

  OnStar president Chris Preuss called the development a "transformational move" that "represents the biggest development in our business model since introducing OnStar as standard across all GM products several years ago."

  The rearview mirror should fit "just about everything [vehicle models]" from 1999 on, Preuss said, citing a need for the device's GPS antenna to clear a vehicle's roofline to get a clear line of site to GPS satellites. The company so far has validated that the mirror works properly in 99 percent of the top 20 selling non-GM vehicles made over the past 10 years, or about 55 million cars and trucks. OnStar expects to certify additional models in the months ahead.

  The mirror's Bluetooth also works with a new Android smartphone app that OnStar is testing to provide text-to-speech conversion of incoming text messages and enable drivers to speak messages that the app would turn into a text message.

  To demonstrate potential OnStar applications made possible by Verizon's 4G network, OnStar brought a Buick LaCrosse test vehicle into Verizon's booth to demonstrate such features as remote monitoring of a vehicle via cameras inside the car and outside. The cameras could also be used to send video clips of vehicles that hit the car and speed away. From the vehicle's dash, consumers could also monitor home security cameras and control a home's systems as well as traffic-camera video.

  Today's OnStar lets drivers make hands-free, voice-activated calls either through a Bluetooth connection to their own cellphone or through prepaid service purchased through OnStar packages of minutes purchased through OnStar. Other OnStar features include automatic crash response via a built-in accelerometer that detects the sudden shock of front, side, or rear impacts and triggers an automatic call to an OnStar advisor. If the driver doesn't respond, or responds to confirm a crash, an OnStar advisor directs emergency responders to the exact GPS location of the vehicle.

  Through the mirror's emergency assistance feature, consumers who press a red emergency button  are immediately connected to a specially trained emergency advisor for assistance.  With the stolen vehicle location assistance feature, OnStar subscribers can call 1-888-4-OnStar (1-888-466-7827) from any phone to tell OnStar advisors that they reported to police that their vehicle was stolen. OnStar advisors will then try to locate the vehicle through the mirror's internal GPS and provide the vehicle's location to police.

 With the turn-by-turn navigation feature, drivers can ask OnStar advisors for directions to a specific location or ask the advisor to find a point of interest such as a gas station or nearby restaurant. The directions are then downloaded to the OnStar system, which provides spoken turn-by-turn directions for reaching the destination.

 In non-emergency situations, drivers can push the OnStar blue button or call 1-888-4-ONSTAR for help with problems such as a flat tire or running out of gas.

 OnStar, now in its ninth generation, has more than six million subscribers in the U.S., Canada and China and plans to expand to more countries. It's available in more than 40 model-year 2011 GM models. First-generation OnStar product launched in 1996 consisted of 38 individual components. The technology now fits inside a rearview mirror weighing only 23 ounces, the company said.
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