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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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