Q: What is Onstar?

December 17, 2013 12:53 PM

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OnStar is a system developed by General Motors that allows you access to a variety of subscription-based services. These services range from basic assistance with navigation and directions to roadside assistance and antitheft features. Many families and business professionals turn to OnStar for a sense of security and to receive assistance with basic travel needs. The OnStar system is now available on many different vehicle models, and a version of the service exists for non-GM vehicles.

The OnStar service began as a feature in the promotion of the luxury car lines from GM. Its non-emergency features include hands-free calling to anyone using an AT&T (previously Verizon) mobile account and navigation assistance. Navigation assistance can range from built-in GPS features to the option to call a concierge for information about local restaurants or traffic conditions.

Roadside assistance is a major component of OnStar service. Service representatives can dispatch towing and emergency crews when the car breaks down or is in an accident. OnStar automatically activates on many vehicles when their airbags are deployed, allowing a representative to contact the driver and send emergency response crews if the driver is unresponsive.

A number of antitheft features are relatively new to OnStar. Early models included GPS tracking designed to help locate a stolen vehicle. Later developments added an engine-throttling device that would reduce a vehicle's available speed and even bring it to a stop on demand. Interlock ignition switches can prevent the engine from starting when OnStar security features are active.

There are additional benefits for subscribing to a service such as OnStar. Many insurance companies recognize the importance of quick response in an accident and offer savings to a driver with a roadside assistance/emergency assistance plan. These savings can offset the subscription costs for many users. Business professionals often turn to OnStar to save time and money while on the go in unfamiliar cities. Concierge representatives can help travelers find the shortest path between distances and allow drivers to call ahead to confirm reservations.

OnStar is now available on vehicles from most major car manufacturers. This means that if you formerly could not access the service because you drive a non-GM vehicle or your car lacks certain integrated features necessary for many OnStar functions, you can now get a scaled-back version of the service to fit your individual needs. This can be a great benefit for people who regularly use their vehicle for long trips or drivers traveling in unfamiliar territory. Business professionals may also use the concierge services of OnStar for information on local dry cleaning services, printers, or other businesses, in addition to receiving assistance that can help with their busy day-to-day lives.

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