OnStar Family Link Lets You Keep Tabs On Your Car (And Your Kids)

March 28, 2012
OnStar Family Link

OnStar Family Link

Last summer, we told you about Family Link, a new service being tested for OnStar subscribers who want to track their vehicles from afar.

Apparently, the test run was a smashing success, because the service is now being made available to all OnStar subscribers over the course of this year.

Family Link is an add-on for OnStar subscribers that lets them keep tabs on their vehicles in two ways. The Vehicle Locate feature allows subscribers to sign into the OnStar website and view their vehicle's location on a map in real time.

And for those who find logging into a website too cumbersome, OnStar offers Vehicle Location Alerts, which send information about the vehicle's location via text messages and/or emails at pre-determined intervals.

Family Link costs $3.99 per month in addition to the usual OnStar monthly subscription fees. Invitations will be sent to a limited number of early adopters starting in April, and it will gradually become available to all U.S. subscribers by the end of the year.

Our take

One the one hand, Family Link seems like a reasonable way for parents to keep up with teenage drivers. Dad wants to know where Junior has taken the family wagon at 2pm? All he has to do is sign into the OnStar website to pinpoint the car (which we're sure he'll find tucked safely in the garage).

On the other hand, Family Link could easily be abused -- particularly by significant others who suspect their better half is up to no good. How can OnStar ensure that Family Link doesn't become fodder for family feuds? Don't look at us -- we're not the engineers who built it.

However, it's interesting to note that during its test run, Family Link sent notices to vehicle owners whenever their car left a pre-defined area or topped a certain speed. In the press materials for the current iteration of Family Link, though, there's no mention of that feature. 

According to OnStar product representatives at a New York City launch event yesterday, the service simply pings the car each time a location is requested. It will not show the car's travels on a map.

And it does not now offer the ability to alert an owner if the car travels outside a set perimeter, although executives said OnStar was "looking at expanding functionality based on feedback from our users."

Life is messy

Perhaps that sort of thing became impractical -- after all, life's messy, and occasionally even teens need to venture beyond their regular neighborhood. 

Or maybe parents found it creepy, keeping such a close eye on their kids -- though the proliferation of GPS-based "teen tracker" devices might indicate otherwise. Whatever the reason, it seems to have crossed a line past which consumers weren't willing to go.

Apart from that missing element, however, the trial Family Link and the "real" version are fairly similar. Even their publicity pics are a near match -- though it's interesting to note that the new photo of the car on a map features the Chevrolet Volt, as did the New York demonstration. It's all about product placement, right?

We're curious to hear how you feel about subscription services like Family Link. Is it something you'd find useful? Or does it seem a tad invasive?

Leave us your thoughts in the comments section below -- and be sure to let us know if you're a parent.

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