Last week, we reported not once, but twice about rumored upgrades to General Motors' popular OnStar service. Now, they're no longer rumors: the upgrades are coming, and they're coming soon. Well, probably.
Most of today's news from GM centers around stuff we've already mentioned -- stuff which is now in a safety testing phase and will likely launch in fairly short order. When the current round of tests conclude, Onstar could:
- Read news from subscribers' Facebook feeds.
- Allow users to update their own Facebook status messages by voice command.
- Connect to users' phones (via Bluetooth) to read text messages.
- Allow users to send text messages via voice command.
There's still no word about a projected timeline for that rollout, but since the service is playing catch-up with Ford Sync (and other in-car services), we imagine it's on the very fastest of tracks.
Beyond that, the biggest news from GM seems to be OnStar's smartphone integration. We saw hints of this in the Chevy Volt app developed for Android, but the concept has been significantly expanded and is now the focus of a new ad campaign, set to launch next Monday. Here's a sneak peek:
There were two more important items mentioned in GM's long, sprawling, OnStar-themed press release:
- GM has launched a competition for student developers to create voice-enabled apps for OnStar. The contest begins in January 2011; more details are available at OnStarDeveloperChallenge.com.
- Through the GM Foundation, the company awarded $600,000 in grants to International Center for Automotive Medicine and the Centers for Disease Control Foundation to help improve emergency treatment for crash victims.
And perhaps most importantly: throughout the release, GM talks about its attention to safety, its "Focus on 'Responsible Connectivity'". Given today's concerns about distracted driving -- whether the distraction is eating, digital billboards, or texting -- it's good to see GM so aware of these safety issues (and the potential slew of lawsuits they might spawn).
For additional information, check out the full GM press release below. And if you want a little chuckle, check out the Detroit News' interview with OnStar president Chris Preuss, who gives "props" to Ford for developing Sync. The kids still give "props", right?
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OnStar Relaunches Its Brand with Focus on “Responsible Connectivity”
- New telematics computing platform includes social media/voice-texting capability and potential for open development
- New OnStar MyLink sub-brand for smart phone applications for Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick and GMC
- Ninth-generation hardware improves navigation and user features
- New services extend OnStar’s safety leadership
- All new marketing campaign and business strategy
New York - OnStar is launching new services, capabilities and technology for its nearly 6 million subscribers as part of a top-to-bottom realignment of the company’s long-term strategy built around ‘responsible connectivity.’
OnStar plans to pilot major innovations that significantly increase drivers’ in-car connection to the world, while extending its safety leadership in the automotive industry.
“These initiatives are all about OnStar’s role in keeping drivers and passengers connected and safe,” said OnStar President Chris Preuss. “Building on the rock-solid foundation of OnStar’s safety and security platform, we were given a clear directive to develop OnStar as one of the chief pillars in defining General Motors’ business going forward.”
“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,” Preuss continued.
Simultaneous events were held in New York, Austin, San Francisco and Miami to relaunch the OnStar brand.
New Technology Testing
OnStar subscribers and technology insiders got a first look at OnStar’s new technologies that are enabled through the ninth generation hardware:
- Audio Facebook Updates: OnStar showcased in-car social media interactions that are being tested. If implemented, Audio Facebook Updates 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 service.
- 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 to a text by verbally selecting a preset response.
OnStar announced the OnStar MyLink sub-brand for mobile phone applications. Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac mobile apps powered by OnStar will allow owners to remotely activate all functions available on a traditional key fob, including remote start, horn and lights and door locks and unlocks securely from select smartphones. Versions have already been shown for the Chevrolet Volt electric vehicle with extended range capability and the all-new Chevrolet Cruze compact sedan.
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. ATOMS allows for advanced geo-boxing and voice-texting engines, including Audio Facebook Updates. OnStar services are rigorously tested to ensure they are consistent with GM’s safe driver principles and help reduce distracted driving.
OnStar Developers Challenge
The OnStar Developers Challenge invites students from leading universities, to design 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 to submit original and compelling voice-enabled applications. The OnStar Developers Challenge website, www.onstardeveloperchallenge.com, launched today.
9th Generation of Hardware
OnStar also unveiled its ninth generation hardware that improves the user experience with new natural voice recognition, Bluetooth phonebook, improved navigation, the ability to work with advanced traffic management and severe weather alert services, also known as geo-boxed notification services.
Furthering Its Safety Leadership
Additionally OnStar continues to enhance its core safety focus:
- In coordination with the GM Foundation, OnStar is providing a grant of $500,000 to the International Center for Automotive Medicine (http://automotivemedicine.org) at the University of Michigan Health System for research related to the prediction of injury severity level after a crash. This grant, along with three years of actual OnStar crash data, will enable OnStar and the University of Michigan Health System 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 ultimately will 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, in coordination with the GM Foundation, also is providing $100,000 to the CDC Foundation to allow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to convene an expert panel to develop a multi-site study design in various states. The study’s purpose will be to assess the correlation of real-time injury predictions sent directly from crash data with actual injury severity. The study will set the stage for broad collaborative research directed at optimizing the potential for automatic crash notification technologies to save lives.
- OnStar unveiled First Assist, an enhancement of its existing emergency services. The First Assist service allows certified Emergency Advisors to obtain critical information and provide important instructions to subscribers until first responders arrive. Emergency situations can include the aftermath of a car crash or the birth of a child. After determining the nature of the situation, Advisors can provide rapid guidance, which may result in potentially lifesaving actions. OnStar Advisors 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 complement the efforts of public safety professionals.
A New Marketing Campaign
OnStar revealed a new marketing campaign that aligns with its new business strategy.
“The new campaign retains all of the core strengths of safety and security that OnStar is known for, but also adds the idea of ‘powerfully simple connectivity,’” said OnStar Chief Marketing Officer Sam Mancuso. “The creative showcases how we provide our customers connectivity to all the things that matter most to them, like family, friends, social media tools and our OnStar Advisors.”
The campaign, created by OnStar’s ad agency Campbell-Ewald, will focus on the theme “Live On”– Safely connecting you in ways you never thought possible.” Print, broadcast and online executions of the campaign launch Monday, Sept. 20.
OnStar’s new business strategy is built around a highly successful subscription model and leaves open the possibility for expansion beyond the automotive industry.
“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.”
For more information on OnStar’s innovation, the company’s recently launched marketing campaign and photos from the events, visit: http://media.gm.com/product/public/us/en/onstar/news.html