OnStar, which has more than 6 million customers using its emergency service in General Motors cars, said it will now sell its car communications network service as a retail product that can be attached to any car.
While cars are becoming a hotbed for internet-connected technology, turning them into gadgets isn’t easy. OnStar’s service is embedded in a cool-looking rear-view mirror with a blue button. You press the blue button to initiate a call with OnStar and can then ask its operators for information or driving directions. Another button on the mirror can initiate a 911 call. The mirror can be attached to just about any car and will be sold in Best Buy stores.
The company made the announcement at the start of the Consumer Electronics Show, which kicked off for the press this afternoon in Las Vegas. OnStar calls the new strategy OnStar Anywhere, which takes the service beyond General Motors vehicles.
The mirror will sell for $299. Service plans will cost $18.95 a month or $199 a year. That gives you anti-theft, emergency response, hands-free calls and other services via an after-market product in retail stores.
“Now we will be talking to a much bigger audience,” said Chris Preuss, chief executive of OnStar.
OnStar has more than 6 million subscribers who pay hefty sums for anti-theft vehicle location, emergency response, hands-free phone calls (initiated by pushing a button on the rear-view mirror) and other services delivered over the company’s OnStar network. OnStar uses Nuance’s latest voice-recognition for car communication. OnStar handles 10,000 911 calls a month and automatically unlocks about 69,000 doors a month for people who have locked their keys in the car.
While the system is known for its anti-theft and emergency response capability, Preuss said that OnStar’s service does a lot more; its operators give 2 million verbal driving directions a month and verbal answers to 3 million verbal queries per month. It also launched new services such as a Chevy Volt app as well as a Facebook app.
The company also announced today an OnStar connectivity app that works via Bluetooth short-range communications with your phone. You can send and receive text messages via voice commands. You can speak a text message and OnStar will send it. It can convert the incoming text message to voice and take the volume of your car radio down at the same time. It uses Android 2.2 version phones or higher. OnStar will also have a relationship with Verizon Wireless on its 4G network.
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