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OnStar Turn-By-Turn Navigation

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OnStar Updates its Navigation Option

02.07.06

OnStar Turn-By-Turn Navigation provides spoken directions without requiring the driver to enter a destination manually; without continued operator involvement (unlike current OnStar directions); but also without any navigation display. It will require a 2007 GM car and cost about $10 a month more than current basic OnStar service.

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By Bill Howard

The in-car navigation space is getting a lot more crowded: Enter the upcoming voice-only OnStar navigation system, shown to the media on a live Webcast January 6, and to be formally announced by GM and Onstar on January 8 at the Chicago Auto Show.

The salient appeal of OnStar Turn-by-Turn Navigation is user interaction that's as simple as pressing a button and telling the operator where you want to go. When it is rolled out, Turn-By-Turn will add around $10 a month to the cost of basic OnStar service. Two Cadillacs and a Buick will include it this spring, followed by nearly 1 million GM vehicles in the 2007 model year that will offer the new nav system as an option to subscribers.

Turn-by-Turn should provide a boost to OnStar; its current navigation system -- Directions & Connections, which costs $399 a year -- is costly both to subscribers and to OnStar, because it requires a live operator to read directions. The cheapest portable navigation systems have already dropped to $400, but OnStar chases a different market: one that values drop-dead-simple solutions that work at the single press of a button instead of several dozen taps on a screen attached by a suction cup to the car windshield. Factory-integrated navigation systems typically cost $1,500 to $2,000, and about 7 percent of the cars produced this year will have built-in navigation.

To use Turn-by-Turn, a driver or passenger needs to push the OnStar button on the vehicle's mirror, which makes a cellular voice call to OnStar. The car's occupants then tell the operator where they want to go, such as a street address or a point of interest like a theater or park, and then wait a few seconds for the information to be downloaded as cellular data to the car. The operator than hangs up and steps out of the picture.

Also out of the picture is any kind of directional display on the dashboard; Turn-by-Turn is voice-only, even if the car has an integrated LCD or multiline radio display. OnStar pitches this as a safety feature of sorts, because there's "no data entry or touch screen to distract drivers from the road." A driver also does not need to look at a particularly complex upcoming intersection with two streets branching off to the right and one to the left.

Turn-by-Turn uses a car's integrated GPS receiver for position fixes, as well as an ABS sensor for dead reckoning (in tunnels and urban canyons, for example). Directions are spoken through the car radio, and you can ask to hear the directions again or to preview the upcoming route instruction. OnStar downloads a "navigation corridor" -- the proper route plus adjacent street -- wide enough to steer you back on course if you stop at a highway off ramp or get moderately lost. If you're way off course, you're asked to download additional directions.

The exact pricing hasn't been set, although Turn by Turn is just a month from launching in the Buick Lucerne and Cadillac DTS, followed by the sportier Cadillac STS in June. OnStar president Chet Huber projects the cost will be somewhere between the two current packages: Directions & Connections, $399 (or $34.95 a month), and Safe & Sound,$199 (or $16.95 a month); thus our estimate of about $10 a month more than the base-level Safe & Sound. That's also what cellular providers such as Verizon typically charge for cellular navigation; VZ Navigator runs $10 a month or, for vacationers and business travelers, $3 for a 24-hour period. Huber said OnStar will consider selling trip packs -- 10 for $30, perhaps?

OnStar Turn-by-Turn isn't available retroactively. Other than the initial Buick and Cadillacs, users must own a 2007 or later GM vehicle equipped with the so-called "Gen 7" OnStar platform and anti-lock brakes -- a potential market of 1 million vehicles.

OnStar representatives didn't talk specifics about acceptance and renewal rates. Most industry analysts say OnStar has had a tougher time maintaining revenues per equipped car, as it has evolved over its decade of existence from a device on costlier cars to universal installation on GM vehicles.

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What's next for OnStar? Huber says future versions of its nav system might be able to display at least rudimentary navigation information, such as turn arrows, in cars with multi-line radio displays or in cars that have a built-in LCD. But Huber calls that a niche opportunity to reach cars with LCDs that don't also integrate navigation systems.

OnStar Turn-by-Turn Navigation precedes another low cost navigation system by a month. At the March Geneva Auto Show, Microsoft and Fiat will announce a navigation system that uses a rudimentary integrated instrument-panel display; drivers will request trip routing with a GSM cell phone that's connected to the car via Bluetooth. This is expected to be an option, costing about $200.

OnStar Press Release

The new OnStar Turn-by-Turn Navigation system advantages include:

Safe, Simple Interactions:

  • Hands on the Wheel, Eyes on the Road: No data entry or touch screen to distract drivers from the road; OnStar Turn-by-Turn Navigation features convenient voice-guided directions delivered through the radio speakers to guide the driver turn-by-turn to the destination.
  • Easy to Use: Press the OnStar blue button, give the advisor an address or point-of-interest destination and directions are sent to the vehicle.
  • Advisor Access: OnStar advisors are available 24-hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year.
Smart, Intuitive System:
  • Route Corrections: OnStar Turn-by-Turn Navigation detects when the driver leaves a planned route and automatically offers updated directions to the destination.
  • Pinpoint Positioning: The enhanced GPS system utilized by OnStar’s Turn-by-Turn Navigation, is fully integrated with the vehicle’s ABS module to deliver a more precise positioning solution.
Accessible and Affordable Navigation:
  • Available in approximately 1 million GM cars and trucks equipped with GM’s anti-lock brake system in Model Year 2007 and will be expanded further within the portfolio in 2008.
  • Available at a fraction of the cost of other competitive navigation products.
Access to OnStar Services:
  • Unlike single-function navigation systems, OnStar Turn-by-Turn Navigation comes in addition to OnStar’s suite of safety, security and peace of mind services.
  • OnStar services, including Turn-by-Turn Navigation, offer advisor and system interaction in English, Spanish and French.
Related article:

MotorTrend:Onstar Debuts Updated Navigation System At Chicago Auto Show

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An amazing feature for sure. Wouldn't it be nice to have Turn-by-Turn in a 2007 Aveo for the cost of OnStar + $10? A nice, simple alternative to the cluttered, unergonomic and expensive screens for those that use navigation less frequently. I would actually be very interested in such a thing.

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Very cool! OnStar gets more appealing with every press release and new feature. One thing I would like to see is OnStar traffic reports (kind of like what sigalert.com does).

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An amazing feature for sure. Wouldn't it be nice to have Turn-by-Turn in a 2007 Aveo for the cost of OnStar + $10? A nice, simple alternative to the cluttered, unergonomic and expensive screens for those that use navigation less frequently. I would actually be very interested in such a thing.

It's actually the ideal solution for heavy users too. Hop in the car, start driving, and have onstar download the address for you. Very convenient! No more wasted time sitting in the driveway while button twiddling. Also great when you enter an area that you are not familier with (or you think you missed a turn), no need to stop, just do the download on the fly.

Just thought of something else: No need to buy expensive updated map CD/DVD's every year!

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...and in GM's case this would elminate the worry that no updated map CD/DVD's are available at any cost.

It's actually the ideal solution for heavy users too.  Hop in the car, start driving, and have onstar download the address for you.  Very convenient!  No more wasted time sitting in the driveway while button twiddling.  Also great when you enter an area that you are not familier with (or you think you missed a turn), no need to stop, just do the download on the fly.

Just thought of something else: No need to buy expensive updated map CD/DVD's every year!

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...and in GM's case this would elminate the worry that no updated map CD/DVD's are available at any cost.

Yeh, buying a car should't be like buying a PC where you have to worry about getting the most "future proof" model!

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An awesome idea for sure. It goes to show that GM is still thinking creatively. But, I am just curious as to how much of a seller it will be. 10 bucks extra will not be much more for the person who can afford OnStar. But OnStar is expensive, and I am sure there are many people who would love to have this service but will not be able to shoulder the cost.

I think it may be worth GM's while to offer this option to non-OnStar customers, but at a bit of a higher cost than 10 bucks, but one that will appeal to the mass market. This will likely increase the sales of this system, but may also give people one more reason to buy a Chevy over a Toyota or Nissan. Plus, if the customers are satisfied with this system, they may also upgrade to full OnStar service!

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The only thing it lacks is a large LCD screen. On-star you can steal this idea: how about the user calls onstar and you download the final destination into a normal NAV system with color maps etc, and you can still have the system read the instructions aloud. The future is video. The cheesy blue LED is a thing of the past.

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The only thing it lacks is a large LCD screen. On-star you can steal this idea: how about the user calls onstar and you download the final destination into a normal NAV system with color maps etc, and you can still have the system read the instructions aloud.  The future is video. The cheesy blue LED is a thing of the past.

It would be cool to integrate this with existing navigation units/screens, but isn't the whole point of this feature that you don't need to have a car with a NAV screen?

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It would be cool to integrate this with existing navigation units/screens, but isn't the whole point of this feature that you don't need to have a car with a NAV screen?

Ditto. Not to mention the additional cost associated with the LCD screen added on. These VFD/LED displays are much cheaper.

The whole point is to have it more accessible and affordable. Yes, the future is LCD screens, but I doubt an average Aveo driver will consider putting a full blown GPS system in their car.

If it's cheap and does the job, why not?

Edited by ToniCipriani

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Ditto. Not to mention the additional cost associated with the LCD screen added on. These VFD/LED displays are much cheaper.

The whole point is to have it more accessible and affordable. Yes, the future is LCD screens, but I doubt an average Aveo driver will consider putting a full blown GPS system in their car.

If it's cheap and does the job, why not?

One time costs associated with a NAV system are far cheaper than an OnStar subscription.

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One time costs associated with a NAV system are far cheaper than an OnStar subscription.

*GPS discs need to be updated themselves and I'm sure they aren't cheap.

*Usability issues with regular NAV systems. To date, no one has really figured out how to best combine NAV with radio functions in a successful manner.

*Radio nav can be easily integrated into lowerline cars.

*You don't have to put down the $1700-2500 for the NAV unit. If you don't like it, cancel it. You don't get a refund on your NAV option if you grow tired of it after 6 months.

*Assuming a cost of $299 annually and you'd still get about 5-8 years worth of OnStar Turn-by-Turn service for the price of a NAV unit in addition to the other unique OnStar content.

* OnStar is considering selling the service on a use-basis as stated in the article, say, 10 'routes' for $30. For the infrequent user who may do 90% of their driving in a familiar location but become confused during travel, this is a blessing.

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Both systems have their places. I think this is a good step, though I have the sinking feeling GM will use this as an excuse to avoid adding nav systems as options in its vehicles.

Edited by Croc

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For many vehicles, you don't really need that big dollar NAV option. In the ones whose market would be receptive to NAV, they exist - pretty much all the SUVs, all Cadillacs, Buick Lucerne, Rendezvous. The CSVs could use it, but that's more or less it.

I really wonder exactly how many Mazda3s, Accords, and Camries are ordered with NAV.

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I don't think anyone "needs" a NAV system. That said, how many Mazda3s, Accords and Camrys are ordered with one is irrelevant; the fact that it's offered is good with the image of the car. GM has pretty much made the center stacks of all its cars take the same radio units. If complete commonality can be achieved, then it wouldn't really cost GM anything to stick a NAV system in there if the customer wants it. Or GM could go the Ford route of having a dash-top storage compartment that is replaced with a NAV unit if ordered.

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that is cool...the whole onstar is a awesome idea

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