Wednesday, April 02, 2008

OnStar Announces Additional Navigation Features

By Chris Haak


Yesterday, GM announced that it was adding some enhancements to the navigation capabilities of the OnStar system, both for vehicles equipped with the more expensive LCD screen-based navigation systems and those with the more rudimentary "turn by turn" navigation that OnStar offers to subscribers.

The first new feature is called OnStar Destination Download. It allows subscribers with screen-based navigation systems to input their destination while the vehicle is in motion by only pressing the OnStar button. Of course, this will be seen as a benefit to anyone who has been frustrated by the inability (for safety and/or liability reasons) to enter a destination into the navigation system of a moving vehicle - even when the passenger is attempting the entry. After pressing the OnStar button and giving your destination information to an OnStar advisor, Destination Download will then utilize your vehicle's regular navigation system and color screen to get you to where you're going.

The second new service is called OnStar eNav, which allows OnStar subscribers who have a Turn-by-Turn navigation-equipped vehicle pre-enter their trip on After pressing the OnStar button and speaking with an advisor, the advisor can transmit the Mapquest directions to the Turn-by-Turn navigation display (which is smaller and monochrome, as opposed to the full-color more expensive navigation screens in some other vehicles). However, the process of entering your destination is greatly streamlined.

Finally, the third enhancement is the addition of XM NavTraffic service to all 22 vehicles that GM offers screen-based navigation systems in for the 2009 model year. Currently, only a handful of newer GM vehicles such as the 2008 CTS offer NavTraffic, but it will be more ubiquitous next year. XM's NavTraffic service, which adds an additional charge onto your XM bill, allows the navigation system to reroute the vehicle around poor traffic conditions.

I'm pleased that GM continues to improve the OnStar service. From a customer standpoint, I'm also very glad to know that nearly all 2009 GM models will have factory Bluetooth connectivity available. The $80,000 2008 Corvette Z06 doesn't have Bluetooth available, but the $25,000 Toyota Camry does. The addition of Bluetooth is a big deal for GM, because the company had been extremely reluctant to make it available in the past because it didn't want to cannibalize potential OnStar sales and jeopardize that recurring revenue stream of monthly subscriptions. Many people, however, do not want to pay OnStar for cell phone airtime and do not want to have separate phone nuumbers for their vehicle and their regular cell phone. GM has managed to enhance OnStar's relevance in a world that has ever more competing technologies, and that's pretty impressive.

Personally, I'm still not convinced that I'd be willing to pay a few hundred dollars per year for the OnStar service after the first year that's included in the new vehicle purchase price ended. It might be a more bold move on GM's part to give the most basic OnStar service - emergency response notification - for five years with the purchase of a new vehicle as part of a comprehensive safety marketing campaign. Regardless of my opinion, obviously plenty of people do appreciate OnStar, or it wouldn't continue to be a service offered by GM.

To read GM's press release, click here.

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