General Motors and OnStar sponsored the kickoff luncheon for the 5th annual NEMPA MIT Technology Conference at the MIT Media Lab on May 21.
John McFarland, who heads GM’s OnStar brand as well as all things related to connectivity, infotainment, and telematics, gave a presentation on the evolution of OnStar.
OnStar is changing as it completes its 10th “generation” with 7 million subscribers after 18 years on the road.
The plan now covers our highways via AT&T’s 4G LTE network, meaning the vehicle’s onboard antenna—that shark fin on the roof of newer cars—gives a stronger signal than in a phone, tablet or “other portable device.”
It has a longer reach, too, covering North America, China, and will be expanding to Europe.
OnStar now makes its basic plan available for free for five years in new cars. That service level includes the remote link mobile app, vehicle diagnostics, and maintenance alerts. The mobile app, in itself, has a lengthy list of features including the lock/unlock, remote start, and “sound horn” on your key fob, the ability to receive navigation directions you send to your phone, vehicle locator, WiFi hotspot manager and data use monitor, and vehicle diagnostics (oil life, tire pressure, EV range).
The next tier of pay services ($19.99 per month) adds automatic crash response, roadside assistance, and 24/7 access to OnStar advisors.
A third tier ($24.99) adds stolen vehicle location, ignition blocking, and stolen vehicle slowdown (with police involvement).
The top level ($34.99) includes navigation with directions and points of interest, and the company’s new “At Your Service” feature for booking hotels and getting retail discounts.
A new optional feature in the works is a Safe Driver Report. Sign up and OnStar will monitor your driving habits for 90 days.
“It’s not about optimizing fuel economy but more about checking the driving habits that insurers seek for giving safe driver discounts,” says McFarland, adding that drivers who like their report can go with the “Flo” and forward it to Progressive Insurance.
“The plan is to have the OnStar platform in new GM vehicles and be able to upgrade and improve it in future years,” he says.