• Sep 15th 2010 at 12:01AM
  • 26
After 15 years of offering comprehensive safety coverage to General Motors vehicle owners, OnStar will be getting a well-deserved boost in functionality to better take on Ford's Sync and other upstart systems.

New infotainment systems are one of the hottest trends in the automotive marketplace, and GM certainly can't afford to be behind the curve. Because of this, OnStar will be relaunching its brand image, citing the phrase "responsible connectivity" as the motto for everything moving forward. This means that OnStar won't just be about safety anymore, though its core values will continue to be improved.

Two of the main infotainment technologies being tested right now are audio Facebook integration and voice text messaging. OnStar recently released a brief bit of information about these two functions, but we were able to attend a presentation to see these new social functions firsthand.

OnStar's Facebook integration will allow subscribers to post audio status updates directly from the car. These messages will appear as audio updates on the Facebook news feed, and drivers will also have the ability to have their personal news feed read back to them. Even though this technology is still undergoing beta testing, the whole process works relatively seamlessly, though the read-back audio could still benefit from some smoothing-out.

Voice text messaging piggybacks on this same audio technology. Using a Bluetooth-paired phone, drivers can have text messages read to them via the car's audio system. From there, the driver can press a button on the steering wheel to verbally select one of OnStar's four pre-set replies – things like, "I received your text message, but am currently driving," or, "Please call me."

All of this being tested in correlation with OnStar's ninth-generation hardware, which improves voice recognition, adds a Bluetooth phonebook, help 'wizard,' improved navigation and uses advanced notification services for traffic and weather alerts. This is just the start to what OnStar is working on, though. Stay tuned for a deeper dive into the future technologies OnStar is working to bring to GM vehicles. In the meantime, hit the jump for the official press release.

[Source: OnStar]
Show full PR text
OnStar Relaunches Its Brand with Focus on "Responsible Connectivity"

• New Telematics Computing platform including social media/voice texting capability and potential for open development
• Announces new sub-brand for smart phone application
• New 9th Generation Hardware with improved navigation and user features
• New Services to Further Its Safety Leadership
• All New Marketing Campaign and Business Strategy

(New York) Sept. 15, 2010 – In simultaneous events across the nation, OnStar's new President Chris Preuss announced new services, capabilities and an advertising campaign as part of a top-to-bottom realignment of the company's long-term strategy built around "responsible connectivity."

"Building on the rock-solid foundation of OnStar's safety and security automotive platform, we were given a clear directive to develop OnStar as one of the chief pillars in defining GM's business going forward," said new OnStar President, Chris Preuss. "With the extremely high awareness and respect for the OnStar brand, we've created a long-term vision that includes new in-vehicle hardware, an all-new IT infrastructure and a host of new partnerships and services that provide the basis for growth. This growth will be consistent with our industry-leading and unmatched focus on safety and security."

OnStar MyLink

OnStar announced the MyLink sub-brand for its' mobile apps. Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick and GMC mobile apps powered by OnStar will allow owners to remotely activate all functions available on a traditional key fob- remote start, horns and light and door unlocks- securely from their smartphones.

Redesigned IT Infrastructure

OnStar revealed its Advanced Telematics Operations Management System (ATOMS) computing platform, one of the most powerful and comprehensive machine-to-machine telematics systems in the world. Two new elements for customers include advanced geo-boxing and voice texting engines, which will allow a number of new and yet-to-be announced services, including Audio Facebook Updates and a flexible platform for handling texts in-vehicle. Both will be rigorously tested to ensure that the features are consistent with GM's safe driver principles and are effective in reducing distracted driving issues.

OnStar Developers Challenge

As part of its focus on reconciling the hurdle of keeping consumers connected in their cars while minimizing driver distractions, OnStar announced a partnership with leading universities known for their technology leadership. The OnStar Developers Challenge invites students at these schools to architect the next voice-based technology that will keep drivers safely connected when they are on the road. The audio-focused Application Programming Interface (API) competition for select universities will allow Engineering, Interaction Design and Human Computer Interaction students the opportunity to submit original and compelling voice-enabled applications. The OnStar Developers Challenge website, www.onstardeveloperchallenge.com, launched on September 15, 2010.

9th Generation of Hardware

OnStar also unveiled its 9th generation of hardware that features a number of upgrades that improves the user experience with new natural voice recognition, Bluetooth phonebook, a new help wizard, improved navigation, the ability to work with geo-boxed notification services (advanced traffic management and severe weather alert services) and the ability to remotely reflash computer modules in the vehicle.

"In addition to building out the IT capability, the hardware also had to be improved to allow for these new services to be developed," Preuss said. "The geo-boxing capability is a key enabler to several new services around advanced traffic management, routing and navigation features that we will be announcing in the future. The remote reflash and the ability to improve our notifications to customers means the CRM capabilities and opportunities with OnStar will continue to lead the industry."

New Technology Testing

In New York, San Francisco, Miami and Austin, a mixed crowd of media, OnStar subscribers and technology insiders got a chance to take a peek at new technologies OnStar engineers are testing, all of which are designed to merge safety and connectivity:

• Audio Facebook Updates: In addition, OnStar showcased beta test results for in-car social media interaction. This service would allow OnStar subscribers to verbally update their Facebook status message through audio recordings and/or listen to their most recent news feed messages through the OnStar Virtual Advisor capability.

• Voice Texting: OnStar revealed beta tests for voice-based SMS (short message service). This feature would enable customers to have their text messages read to them using Bluetooth. The Bluetooth technology allows users to connect their mobile device to their vehicle and receive automated text messages. With one button press, on the steering wheel, users can reply back to a text by verbally selecting one of four pre-set replies.

Furthering Its Safety Leadership

As the company continues to enhance its core safety focus,

• In coordination with the GM Foundation, OnStar is providing grants of $500,000 to the University of Michigan Health System and $100,000 to the CDC Foundation for additional research related to the prediction of injury levels in severe crashes. These grants, along with three years of actual OnStar crash data will enable OnStar, the University of Michigan Health System and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to be able to link crash data to actual physical injuries sustained in vehicle crashes. The revolutionary research, conducted over approximately 18 months, will look at 1,000 incidents and will ultimately allow OnStar to predict not only the severity of a crash, but assist emergency care providers by providing the probability of certain types of injuries sustained by crash victims.

• OnStar unveiled First Assist, an enhancement of existing its' emergency services. The First Assist service allows certified Emergency Advisors to obtain critical information and provide important instructions to subscribers involved in emergency situations ranging from the aftermath of a car crash to the birth of a child until first responders arrive. After determining the nature of the situation, Advisors can provide rapid guidance, which may result in potentially lifesaving actions. OnStar Advisors who will be providing this service are specially trained and certified by the National Academies of Emergency Dispatch™ (NAED) using the Medical Priority Dispatch System (MPDS) protocol. This service, available at no additional cost to active OnStar subscribers, will compliment the efforts of public safety professionals by allowing Advisors to act as a conduit for requesting services for on-scene rescue and support for its subscribers in need.

A New Marketing Campaign

Preuss also revealed a new marketing and engagement campaign that will stretch the definition and understanding of the brand, while engaging its customers as advocates. The campaign will focus on the awareness, simplicity and power of the blue button with the theme "Live On"– Safely Connecting you in ways you never thought possible." The campaign, created by OnStar's ad agency Campbell-Ewald, will include print, broadcast and online executions.

"We wanted our campaign to be bottom-up, built around engagement and social media with a strong element of advertising", said OnStar's Chief Marketing Officer, Sam Mancuso. "The campaigns of the past were almost exclusively based on traditional advertising and were highly focused on real life stories of our customers. While effective, the premise was more around "hope to goodness you don't need it" versus "I don't want to drive without it." Our new campaign will be built around our customers as advocates, but it will also be more optimistic and will feature the full breadth of features we have now and will be adding in the future. This is key to our new business strategy."

The campaign launches Monday, Sept. 20, 2010.

Preuss said the new business strategy will be built around the highly successful and profitable subscription model and leaves open the possibility that OnStar could expand beyond the automotive space into other areas where safety and security with a telematics enabler would be relevant.

"One aspect of our business that will never change is our live advisors who are just a simple button press away," said Preuss. "They are what set us apart, and they'll continue to be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week."

I'm reporting this comment as:

Reported comments and users are reviewed by Autoblog staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week to determine whether they violate Community Guideline. Accounts are penalized for Community Guidelines violations and serious or repeated violations can lead to account termination.

    • 1 Second Ago
      • 4 Years Ago
      Until Apple designs a car infotainment system, I won't be sold. Microsoft SYNC is probably the best on the market, but, voice controls are too gimmicky to me. apple's voice control seems to work way better and I love how they scroll the appropriate commands so you don't need to remember them.

      I hope this GM model has tactile feedback or some type "press" feel because if it doesn't, i think it would be too easy to accidentaly touch unwanted functions.
      • 4 Years Ago

      • 4 Years Ago
      This is great news by Onstar. I'm surprised by all the negative comments. This technology is going to be huge with the younger buyers. They will care more about connectivity than hp. Just like their parents cared more about reliability than handling.

      Sync is also great, but there some things here with greater potential. The remote app on the smart phone that can tell you everything about the car status, remote start, lock/unlock, etc. is awesome. That app (and its possibilities) will really excite the portable device generation.

      Sorry, it's not going to happen that we go back to days without texting, cell phones, social networking pages. The first company to integrate that with (safely) the vehicle will have a huge leg up. GM & Ford are the ones in the game right now.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I was hoping that they'ed come out with something so that all of the horribly inattentive Suburban/Tahoe/Hummer moms out there who routinely weave all over the road and endanger my live every morning and evening without even realizing it will be even further distracted.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Whatever happened to just driving when you were driving?
      • 4 Years Ago

      I guess that more things to distract drivers from - um - driving will at least generate more accident calls for OnStar.

      I was never a believer in him but America's calling Ralph Nader!
      • 4 Years Ago
      GM is desperate for anything that will get people to pay a recurring fee for OnStar service. Mislabeling Facebook as infotainment is probably not going to do it, and as evidenced in comments above, the negative backlash over providing another option for distracted driving is going to hurt the brand.

      The fundamental problem remains. Everyone already has a phone, and nobody likes to pay twice for something.

      Worse, GM's OnStar baggage continues to prevent them from developing competitive features for their core product, automobiles. OnStar competes with technologies that other manufacturers build into their cars in order to make more money on their cars. How much better and sooner might GM's navigation and bluetooth have been had they not been obsessed with pushing OnStar? What will they suck at next because they can't let it go?
      • 4 Years Ago
      more distractions, and more fussiness while driving.

      More soon-to-be-obsolete tech built in to a car that should outlive the tech trends.

      more etherial features from an unaccountable cell modem built into every system on your car, that reports who-knows-what to who-knows-who, without notifying you.

      And you get to pay for the service!

      FAIL. I'll never own a car with OWN-STAR.
        • 4 Years Ago
        This onstar/facebook integration is such a lame gimmick that it's just disgusting.
        • 4 Years Ago
        The ONLY multimedia type tech a car should ever need is gps, stereo, and bluetooth. That's it. You shouldn't be on facebook while driving (to state the obvious)
      • 4 Years Ago
      This is such a bad idea. Even with voice activation, who needs to be Facebooking while they drive?
      • 4 Years Ago
      Among many things, this points to a much broader perception of driving as a pain in the butt chore, instead of a pleasurable experience. I don't blame people either.

      If this becomes a hit, maybe it would also mean that a majority of people will be willing to let a computer drive their car once that technology matures. We willingly allow drunk pilots to fly us around., so this is not far fetched.

      • 4 Years Ago
      My next vehicle will be a huge construction truck......... so I can just bump bad, inattentive drivers off the road....... without risk of injury to myself!
      • 4 Years Ago
      This is GMs 9th "Hardware Upgrade" as a response to Ford's "Software Enabled" Sync and MyFord Touch well integrated infotainment solution... Nice try GM, but with (4) "canned audio responses" as all you can produce from this lame attempt at technology...!

      I'll buy Ford's MyFord Touch Sync solution way before any antiquated GM "hardware" solution!
        • 4 Years Ago
        OnStar is just a different approach, not "antiquated". OnStar is designed to always have a dependable connection so that they can call in a crash or track a stolen vehicle. Now they're adding other features. Toyota Safety Connect, Mercedes m-brace and BMW's system are all based on the same approach (built in cell).

        Sync relies on your phone (pro=free), but I doubt the majority of Sync owners have paired their phone (so it can't help in a crash) and the phone won't be there if the vehicle is stolen. My neighbor had their Flex stolen and thought for sure Sync would get it back. Nope.

        I'm glad OnStar is adding some new features and trust that they won't put out something dangerous.
    • Load More Comments