OnStar is a telematics service offered on GM vehicles. OnStar offers a wide range of services; everything from emergency and security, vehicle diagnostics, hands free calling and turn-by-turn navigation. I personally think the concept behind what OnStar offers is terrific. It is a peace of mind thing. Knowing that when you lock your keys in the car a simple phone call can get the car unlocked. The biggest peace of mind is the crash response. If you get into an accident, sensors will alert the OnStar team and they will call your car to check on you. They will then send emergency services and report your location. The system can even tell which airbags have deployed and, to a certain extent, the type of crash you were in. The best part is they can talk to you, I can only imagine how much better it is to have someone trying to calm you down and “be there” with you.
Now lets talk cost. I will admit the 18.95 per month for the safe and sound package is not the most expensive thing in the world. In fact, for what it offers it is damn near a value. Even the directions and connections package for $28.95 per month is not ridiculously over priced. The thing that really kicks you in the teeth is the hands free calling. With Bluetooth now available on so many GM models, the hands free calling is just down right silly. You pay for a “bucket” of minutes and then reload when you have used them all, a pricing concept similar to pre-paid cellular service.
In the end some of OnStars features are definitely of value. The safe and sound package is something that could save someone’s life. When you are in an accident your cell phone usually will go flying, not to mention the peace of mind. I do like that. The features of direction and connections package can easily be accessed via a smartphone such as an iPhone, Blackberry, external GPS systems (Tom Tom, Garmin, etc) or even the factory GPS systems, which are now pretty good. With features on board these devices, finding a restaurant, gas station, or any destination is easy and quick. Not to mention those services are free since they are included with your phone.
In the end it all comes down to what you are willing to pay for. That safe & sound package is $199 a year when you tally it up. The directions and connections package is $299 a year. I personally think hands free talking in the car is a safety issue; so much so that I feel Bluetooth-based hands free systems should be in all vehicles. With that said, OnStar does offer some features that others cannot match, but like everything, it comes with a price. The bottom line, I love the features and the concept behind OnStar, just not a huge fan of the price tag. The fact remains; other devices in your life will and could suffice to a certain degree. It all comes down to what you need and how much that peace of mind worth to you.
Full Disclosure- I took the pictures inside the OnStar Command Center during a private tour arranged by Adam Barrera when I was at NAIAS, which General Motors paid for my travel and accommodations.