Vauxhall’s OnStar service has been heralded by some as a high-tech revolution for in-car technology. It effectively offers you your own personal assistant able to download route guidance directly to the sat-nav system or ring the emergency services in the event of a crash – it also brings a WiFi hotspot and the ability to control certain car functions via your smartphone.
Available now on selected Vauxhall models, such as the brand new Astra and stylish Corsa, OnStar is currently being offered for free in the first year of ownership and subsequent years will cost £79 annually.
What is OnStar?
OnStar is Vauxhall parent company General Motors’ in-car guidance system and was launched in North America way back in 1995. Since then, it’s been extended into other markets and earlier this year reached the milestone of helping one-billion customers.
OnStar adds three buttons on the overhead console or rear-view mirror that offer several functions for customers, plus a downloadable app for your smartphone to control different aspects of your car.
What are the benefits?
There are several advantages to the OnStar system, one of the most important is its ability to help in an accident. Owners will be able to press the SOS button if they require assistance or witness an accident, they will then be connected to OnStar’s service centre in Luton where help can be arranged. This also works if the owner breaks down, runs out of fuel or gets a flat tyre – roadside assistance can be arranged quickly to avoid minimal disruption to customers.
OnStar can also identify if a car’s airbags have deployed. In this situation, the service centre will try and contact the car and, if there is no response, the emergency services will be alerted to the car’s location and help is immediately sent.
OnStar’s location services can also be used to track the vehicle in case it’s been stolen, and OnStar can immobilise the car remotely so thieves cannot start the car and police can arrange recovery. Those worried about privacy needn’t be, however, because there’s a privacy button on hand to hide the car’s location if the key’s been used to start the car – this is automatically disabled if the airbags are deployed.
Other useful features include the ability to speak to the OnStar service centre and get directions sent directly to your vehicle, something you can also do yourself via the downloadable smartphone app. Owners will also be able to display key vehicle information on their phone, locate their car, lock or unlock the doors remotely and also flash the lights and sound the horn if they’ve forgotten where they parked.
Passengers will also be able to enjoy in-car WiFi, with a 4G hotspot being able to connect up to seven devices at a time. This will probably of major interest for owners with children, who will now be able to spend hours playing games on the tablets and streaming TV without bothering their parents.
Is there anything similar on the market?
For those who like the sound of OnStar but aren’t sure if there’s a Vauxhall to suit them, there are several other manufacturers who offer similar services in the UK. Probably the most comprehensive is BMW’s ConnectedDrive – it also offers assistance services in the case of an accident or breakdown, and the optional concierge service can be used to provide directions or even book a table at a restaurant.
Volvo’s On Call service is slightly more safety-orientated as part of the brand’s pledge to eradicate all deaths in Volvo vehicles by 2020. It also offers navigation and vehicle tracking in addition to an SOS button. In the US, Mercedes offers something called mbrace, which should be coming to the UK in the next year or so. All these systems have emerged in response to the increasing pressure from the EU for so-called ‘e-call’ systems like OnStar to become standard across all new models by the end of the decade.
Want a car with OnStar?
If you’re keen on this new tech then head over to our Vauxhall page to read in-depth reviews of the Luton brand’s cars, or put the popular Vauxhall Corsa or practical Vauxhall Mokka in our car configurator to see how much carwow could help you save.