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February 02, 2011

OnStar's Very Busy Month

Onstar_logo Last month, Onstar had a very busy news streak -first announcing they were expanding beyond GM cars, then by announcing a Student Developer competition, and finally by announcing that Linda Marshall, executive director of OnStar's global business strategy and development since November, would be stepping in to take over as president of the division after Christopher Preuss steps down. 

First, the expansion: this is pretty big news for anyone who drives a car that isn't made by General Motors, and here's why:  beginning in the Spring, Onstar will begin selling a product called  OnStar Anywhere.  Quite a name, huh?  So, what is it?  Well, it's a rear-view mirror - meant to replace the mirror currently adorning your windshield - with a familiar-looking blue button on it.  It's Onstar, a la carte.  And it's really cool - this means that OnStar's great safety and security service will be available in a portable devite, for any car you already own.  It's certified to work for 99% of the 20 best-selling non-GM vehicles over the last ten years, and the list is rapidly growing.  I, for instance, drive a Kia, which isn't certified to work yet, but Ask Patty readers take note: this thing's definitely on my Christmas list.

The mirror will give anyone, in any car, access to most of OnStar's servies for a monthly fee.  The product will retail for $299, not including installation (which will probably cost anywhere from $75 to $100 at a retailer like Best Buy), and service plans will reportedly range from $18.95 per month to $195 per year.

The services that OnStar Anywhere will allow you access to will be pretty familiar to anyone who has driven a car with OnStar service:

Also, like OnStar, the services that this new mirror will provide include:

Automatic Crash Response: There's an accelerometer built into the mirror that detects the sudden shock of an impact from the front, side or rear of the vehicle — and automatically calls an OnStar advisor.

Emergency Services: Pressing OnStar's red emergency button links customers to a specially trained emergency advisor for assistance in situations occurring inside or outside of their vehicle.

Stolen Vehicle Location Assistance: OnStar will tell law enforcement where it is if you report it as being stolen.

Turn-by-Turn Navigation: Downloadable spoken turn-by-turn directions for reaching customers destinations.

Roadside Assistance: In non-emergency situations, drivers can push the blue button to help with problems like a flat tire or running out of gas.

Hands-Free Calling: Hands-free, voice-activated calls through a Bluetooth connection to the driver's mobile phone or through prepaid packages of minutes purchased through OnStar.

A mere week later, Onstar rolled out the Developer's Challenge: students at five universities get a unique opportunity to try their hand at designing the next OnStar application.  The 2011 OnStar Student Developer’s Challenge, which kicked off last month as well, asks students to develop a new in-vehicle, voice-prompted application. The participating schools are University of Michigan, University of Texas, Carnegie Mellon University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and University of Toledo. 

Students may register individually or in teams and the winner (individual or team) of the Grand Prize will get their choice of one of our Developer Dream Packages each valued at $10,000.  The application will have to fulfill a certain need - providing a solution for either Responsible Connectivity, Informed Driving, or Location-Based Services - but whatever the result Ask Patty will be keenly watching as these students develop the next step in safe driving technology.

Today it's February 2nd, which means that new president Linda Marshall has been in the office since yesterday.  Congratulations to her, from the team


Kaeli Gardner, Inc.
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