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GM will launch improved OnStar

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GM will launch improved OnStar

Carmaker aims at younger buyers, while taking on Ford's Sync

Christina Rogers / The Detroit News

General Motors Co. is overhauling its OnStar brand to make it more appealing to younger, more tech-savvy buyers, and to take on crosstown rival Ford Motor Co.'s popular Sync system.

The Detroit-based automaker plans to add several features to its OnStar service lineup and create a sub-brand of mobile apps for its four vehicle brands.

GM will highlight these changes in a nationwide advertising campaign set to launch Monday. OnStar, with 5.5-million subscribers, has built a reputation for safety and vehicle theft protection but GM officials want to expand it to include more information and entertainment options.

The new ads will feature OnStar's new tagline, "LiveOn," and TV commercials will show drivers using various aspects of OnStar -- such as its turn-by-turn directions and mobile apps -- with music by indie rock band "Modest Mouse."

"As we re-launch the brand, we wanted to stretch the definition of what OnStar means because it's going to do more things," said OnStar President Chris Preuss.

The move comes as competition heats up among automakers trying to outdo each other on their in-car tech offerings.

Once a leader in this area, GM has since lost ground to rival automakers who've done a better job meshing the technology with music and other entertainment. OnStar was founded in 1995.

"I got to give props to the guys down in Dearborn," Preuss said, referring to Ford Motor Co.'s Sync system. "If they've done anything effectively with the power of Sync, it's not so much on the technology as it's been translating that technology to the customers' benefit."

Ford introduced Sync in 2007. The technology, developed with Microsoft Corp., allows drivers to control cell phones and music players with voice commands. Ford has since built upon Sync, introducing its MyFord Touch this year. The system replaces most of analog controls with full-color computer screens and touch-sensitive buttons.

Kia Motors Corp. this year debuted its own version of Sync, UVO, which allows drivers to use voice- and touch-activated controls.

"The experience you have living inside the car is going to be as important to the next generation of buyers as the exterior and fuel economy has been to previous generations," said James Bell, an executive market analyst with Kelley Blue Book.

As a subscription business, OnStar has been "extremely profitable" for GM, Preuss said, declining to give exact dollar figures. But GM's new leadership saw OnStar as an under-valued and under-marketed technology, Preuss said.

He noted that many of its incoming executives, including CEO Daniel Akerson, have backgrounds in telecommunications.

In re-launching the OnStar brand, GM has upgraded the hardware -- now in its ninth generation -- to make several new features possible, including technology that allows drivers to get traffic updates and severe weather alerts.

MyLink, a new OnStar sub-brand, will be available in October for its 2011 model year vehicles. MyLink offers mobile apps for each of the GM brands. Using the program, drivers can remotely control functions on their cars and trucks using a smart phone.

OnStar also is testing software to enable drivers to verbally update their Facebook pages and have text messages read to them aloud. The new advertising campaign will span multiple outlets, including TV, radio and the Web and be tied closely to its car and truck brand marketing, an effort led by GM's new vice president of U.S. marketing, Joel Ewanick.

"This has a lot to do with Ford introducing Sync in the Fusion a few years ago," said Bell. "GM was looking a bit delinquent in that space."

Bell said OnStar already is a technological "pot of gold" but said "I've always thought it wasn't marketed enough."

From The Detroit News: http://www.detnews.com/article/20100915/AUTO01/9150319/1148/auto01/GM-will-launch-improved-OnStar#ixzz0zbbwjwkg

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GM relaunches OnStar with WiFi, news podcasts and more to challenge Ford Sync



General Motors' OnStar is fighting back.

Next year, GM will provide in-car access to Pandora online radio, Stitcher news podcasts and WiFi. Voice-activated Facebook, texting, e-mail and MP3 player control also may come soon.

Consumers already have heard about many of these technologies -- from rival Ford's Sync, which links to cell phones and iPods. Among digital devotees, Sync, first launched in 2007, has left OnStar's blue button in the dust.

But that will change, GM says.

"You can argue that we haven't marketed it, we haven't advertised it, we haven't communicated it," said Micky Bly, executive director of GM's hybrids, electric vehicles, batteries and infotainment. "That communication starts today."

Even with better marketing and new technology, OnStar faces hurdles. The safety-and-security brand hopes to convince regulators it can offer voice-activated Facebook and messaging access safely.

Don't expect to see OnStar abandon the blue button or its core safety and driver-assistance services. Once GM catches up in infotainment, executives say, the help provided by OnStar's built-in phone module will distinguish it from automated, cell phone-based Sync.

GM adds apps in bid to catch Ford, Microsoft's Sync

Post-bankruptcy General Motors had a technology problem.

While GM had dazzled consumers with its OnStar safety advisers in 1996, in the following decade Ford leapfrogged its rival, using Microsoft's Sync system to access smartphones and music players by voice command.

"In the 1990s, up until the early 2000s, we led in this space," said Bly. "We kind of slowed down. We didn't really bring in that 'Wow' factor."

Under the leadership of Chris Preuss, former head of GM's public relations staff, OnStar has a comeback plan. Early next year, it is to launch MyLink applications to Pandora online radio, Stitcher podcasts and WiFi. After that, it may offer voice-activated control of Facebook, texts, e-mail and Web searches. Today, OnStar launches a marketing campaign to link new technology to its well-known blue button.

The new offerings will be available in 2011 models. Owners of older GM cars won't be able to upgrade.

For now, the new features will only be available to OnStar subscribers, who pay $199 annually for safety features or $299 for extra services such as navigation.

But new infotainment features, such as MyLink or the voice-activated Web searches coming in the next 15 months, will likely be available for a lower price or even in a non-subscription package, Preuss said in an interview. OnStar's safety and adviser services would remain subscription-based. Ford's Sync costs $395, with some features requiring a $60 annual subscription after the first three years.

OnStar's new menu is designed to coordinate GM's telematics and infotainment strategies. In years past, GM's engineers were responsible for infotainment such as Bluetooth. OnStar focused on safety and security.

Chairman Ed Whitacre and CEO Dan Akerson, both veterans of telecommunications businesses, said OnStar was undervalued and undermarketed, Preuss said.

So Preuss and Bly visited Google, Microsoft and Apple this year, looking for technology to expand infotainment services. The strategy led to the new "Live On" ad campaign by Campbell-Ewald, which says the brand is "safely connecting you in ways you never thought possible."

Even more is coming. Within the next couple years, GM may provide voice commands for MP3 players and navigation systems, Preuss said. OnStar is also in talks with online phone company Skype, Twitter and Cisco Systems, the network provider.

Offering more smartphone-based features will not distract OnStar from billing the blue button as a symbol of service and safety.

OnStar's built-in phone module is always in the vehicle, and Sync users can't benefit from their automated 9-1-1 call if they forget their cell phone. OnStar is developing a program that would send a driver who is out of the vehicle a text if a tire goes flat. And OnStar's safety network uses human advisers who have priority access to 911 call centers and can provide first-aid guidance until help arrives.

Despite its emphasis on safety, OnStar could face opposition from federal safety regulators. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has said he is opposed to cell phone use while driving because it is a risky distraction.

Preuss said GM will work with the government because OnStar aims to solve problems, not create them.

Still, he said, "the discussion in some circles has gotten to the point that any device or any connectivity in the car is a hazard, and I think the data shows that's not the case."

Preuss said GM is leaning toward preset replies to e-mails and texts, as Sync's newest version allows, although GM is also testing dictation technology internally.



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GM's OnStar relaunches, testing audio Facebook updates

08:03 AM

CAPTIONBy Steve Fecht/OnStar

Facing increased competition, General Motors' OnStar is announcing a "top-to-bottom realignment of the company's long-term strategy" that could add lots of cool, new technology like the ability to tend to your Facebook page from the car.

The new strategy is something called "responsible connectivity," which roughly means adding fancy in-car entertainment technology without getting in trouble from the Transportation Department by distracting drivers too much. The immediate result could be features like allowing subscribers to update their Facebook page status and listen to their latest Facebooks messages read aloud to them. Drivers could also have their text messages read to them from their cell phones.

OnStar is the subscription-based in-car connectivity system that comes with every new GM car. It has come under intense competition from driver's own smartphones and systems like Ford's Sync, which makes it easier to control devices like Blackberrys, smart phones and other devices while driving. Kia also has a version of the system, developed by Microsoft.

OnStar says it:

...plans to pilot major innovations that significantly increase drivers' in-car connection to the world, while extending its safety leadership in the automotive industry. 'These initiatives are all about OnStar's role in keeping drivers and passengers connected and safe,' said OnStar President Chris Preuss. 'Building on the rock-solid foundation of OnStar's safety and security platform, we were given a clear directive to develop OnStar as one of the chief pillars in defining General Motors' business going forward.'

That's a endorsement considering that OnStar has been under pressure both from the fact that most customers are carrying their

"With the extremely high awareness and respect for the OnStar brand, we've created a long-term vision that includes new in-vehicle hardware, an all-new IT infrastructure and a host of new partnerships and services that provide the basis for growth," Preuss continued.

OnStar is trying to make a big deal out of the launch, holding events in New York, Austin, San Francisco and Miami.

It's latest functionality includes:

Audio Facebook Updates. OnStar showcased in-car social media interactions that are being tested. If implemented, Audio Facebook Updates would allow OnStar subscribers to verbally update their Facebook status message through audio recordings and/or listen to their most recent news feed messages through the OnStar Virtual Advisor service.

Voice Texting. OnStar revealed beta tests for voice-based SMS (short message service). This feature would enable customers to have their text messages read to them using Bluetooth, the technology that allows users to connect their mobile device to their vehicle and receive automated text messages. With one button press, on the steering wheel, users can reply to a text by verbally selecting a preset response.

OnStar recently announced it is going to have greater functionality with mobile devices. It is going to have the ability for GM car owners to remotely activate all functions available on a traditional key fob, including remote start, horn and lights and door locks and unlocks securely from select smartphones.



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By Mark Kleis

General Motors has announced the expansion of its OnStar offering with a greater focus on "responsible" connectivity, an issue facing drivers and courts on a daily basis.

The big change comes in the form of a new telematics platform which now includes a combination of social media and text voice reproduction capability, as well as open source code to allow for endless publicly-sourced expansion. This new platform, based on OnStar's 9th-generation hardware, utilizes new natural voice recognition, Bluetooth phonebook accessibility, improved navigation and the ability to work in combination with advanced weather and traffic notification services.

Testing continues

Although GM has released information about its planned additions to its services, some aspects are still in testing. OnStar subscribers and technology insiders got a first look at OnStar's new technologies, such as Audio Facebook Updates. If implemented, Audio Facebook Updates would allow OnStar subscribers to verbally update their Facebook status message through audio recordings and/or listen to their most recent news feed messages through the OnStar Virtual Advisor service without taking their eyes off the road.

This is made possible by some of the same technology being tested for Voice Texting, a voice-based SMS (short message service). Just as one would expect, this technology will allow incoming text messages to be read to the driver via Bluetooth.

In addition to reading incoming texts, with the push of a button on the steering wheel, drivers can also use pre-set voice commands to give automated replies in the form of a text message based on their verbal input.

OnStar MyLink

Although previously discussed with the Chevrolet Volt, GM also explained further the future of MyLink, a technology that will be available for Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac models. MyLink is an app that works on smart phones and gives users the ability to communicate with their vehicle similarly to how their key fob would, but with additional range and two-way functionality. This would include the ability to remote start, access the horn and lights and door locks.

We don't yet have exact dates for when these new technologies will become available, but GM says that they should collectively start to be aggressively introduced over the course of the next nine to 18 months.



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Latest OnStar focuses on infotainment, adds audio Facebook integration, voice texting

by Steven J. Ewing (RSS feed) on Sep 15th 2010 at 12:01AM

After 15 years of offering comprehensive safety coverage to General Motors vehicle owners, OnStar will be getting a well-deserved boost in functionality to better take on Ford's Sync and other upstart systems.

New infotainment systems are one of the hottest trends in the automotive marketplace, and GM certainly can't afford to be behind the curve. Because of this, OnStar will be relaunching its brand image, citing the phrase "responsible connectivity" as the motto for everything moving forward. This means that OnStar won't just be about safety anymore, though its core values will continue to be improved.

Two of the main infotainment technologies being tested right now are audio Facebook integration and voice text messaging. OnStar recently released a brief bit of information about these two functions, but we were able to attend a presentation to see these new social functions firsthand.

OnStar's Facebook integration will allow subscribers to post audio status updates directly from the car. These messages will appear as audio updates on the Facebook news feed, and drivers will also have the ability to have their personal news feed read back to them. Even though this technology is still undergoing beta testing, the whole process works relatively seamlessly, though the read-back audio could still benefit from some smoothing-out.

Voice text messaging piggybacks on this same audio technology. Using a Bluetooth-paired phone, drivers can have text messages read to them via the car's audio system. From there, the driver can press a button on the steering wheel to verbally select one of OnStar's four pre-set replies – things like, "I received your text message, but am currently driving," or, "Please call me."

All of this being tested in correlation with OnStar's ninth-generation hardware, which improves voice recognition, adds a Bluetooth phonebook, help 'wizard,' improved navigation and uses advanced notification services for traffic and weather alerts. This is just the start to what OnStar is working on, though. Stay tuned for a deeper dive into the future technologies OnStar is working to bring to GM vehicles. In the meantime, hit the jump for the official press release.

[source: OnStar]

Show full PR text

OnStar Relaunches Its Brand with Focus on "Responsible Connectivity"

• New Telematics Computing platform including social media/voice texting capability and potential for open development

• Announces new sub-brand for smart phone application

• New 9th Generation Hardware with improved navigation and user features

• New Services to Further Its Safety Leadership

• All New Marketing Campaign and Business Strategy

(New York) Sept. 15, 2010 – In simultaneous events across the nation, OnStar's new President Chris Preuss announced new services, capabilities and an advertising campaign as part of a top-to-bottom realignment of the company's long-term strategy built around "responsible connectivity."

"Building on the rock-solid foundation of OnStar's safety and security automotive platform, we were given a clear directive to develop OnStar as one of the chief pillars in defining GM's business going forward," said new OnStar President, Chris Preuss. "With the extremely high awareness and respect for the OnStar brand, we've created a long-term vision that includes new in-vehicle hardware, an all-new IT infrastructure and a host of new partnerships and services that provide the basis for growth. This growth will be consistent with our industry-leading and unmatched focus on safety and security."

OnStar MyLink

OnStar announced the MyLink sub-brand for its' mobile apps. Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick and GMC mobile apps powered by OnStar will allow owners to remotely activate all functions available on a traditional key fob- remote start, horns and light and door unlocks- securely from their smartphones.

Redesigned IT Infrastructure

OnStar revealed its Advanced Telematics Operations Management System (ATOMS) computing platform, one of the most powerful and comprehensive machine-to-machine telematics systems in the world. Two new elements for customers include advanced geo-boxing and voice texting engines, which will allow a number of new and yet-to-be announced services, including Audio Facebook Updates and a flexible platform for handling texts in-vehicle. Both will be rigorously tested to ensure that the features are consistent with GM's safe driver principles and are effective in reducing distracted driving issues.

OnStar Developers Challenge

As part of its focus on reconciling the hurdle of keeping consumers connected in their cars while minimizing driver distractions, OnStar announced a partnership with leading universities known for their technology leadership. The OnStar Developers Challenge invites students at these schools to architect the next voice-based technology that will keep drivers safely connected when they are on the road. The audio-focused Application Programming Interface (API) competition for select universities will allow Engineering, Interaction Design and Human Computer Interaction students the opportunity to submit original and compelling voice-enabled applications. The OnStar Developers Challenge website, www.onstardeveloperchallenge.com, launched on September 15, 2010.

9th Generation of Hardware

OnStar also unveiled its 9th generation of hardware that features a number of upgrades that improves the user experience with new natural voice recognition, Bluetooth phonebook, a new help wizard, improved navigation, the ability to work with geo-boxed notification services (advanced traffic management and severe weather alert services) and the ability to remotely reflash computer modules in the vehicle.

"In addition to building out the IT capability, the hardware also had to be improved to allow for these new services to be developed," Preuss said. "The geo-boxing capability is a key enabler to several new services around advanced traffic management, routing and navigation features that we will be announcing in the future. The remote reflash and the ability to improve our notifications to customers means the CRM capabilities and opportunities with OnStar will continue to lead the industry."

New Technology Testing

In New York, San Francisco, Miami and Austin, a mixed crowd of media, OnStar subscribers and technology insiders got a chance to take a peek at new technologies OnStar engineers are testing, all of which are designed to merge safety and connectivity:

• Audio Facebook Updates: In addition, OnStar showcased beta test results for in-car social media interaction. This service would allow OnStar subscribers to verbally update their Facebook status message through audio recordings and/or listen to their most recent news feed messages through the OnStar Virtual Advisor capability.

• Voice Texting: OnStar revealed beta tests for voice-based SMS (short message service). This feature would enable customers to have their text messages read to them using Bluetooth. The Bluetooth technology allows users to connect their mobile device to their vehicle and receive automated text messages. With one button press, on the steering wheel, users can reply back to a text by verbally selecting one of four pre-set replies.

Furthering Its Safety Leadership

As the company continues to enhance its core safety focus,

• In coordination with the GM Foundation, OnStar is providing grants of $500,000 to the University of Michigan Health System and $100,000 to the CDC Foundation for additional research related to the prediction of injury levels in severe crashes. These grants, along with three years of actual OnStar crash data will enable OnStar, the University of Michigan Health System and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to be able to link crash data to actual physical injuries sustained in vehicle crashes. The revolutionary research, conducted over approximately 18 months, will look at 1,000 incidents and will ultimately allow OnStar to predict not only the severity of a crash, but assist emergency care providers by providing the probability of certain types of injuries sustained by crash victims.

• OnStar unveiled First Assist, an enhancement of existing its' emergency services. The First Assist service allows certified Emergency Advisors to obtain critical information and provide important instructions to subscribers involved in emergency situations ranging from the aftermath of a car crash to the birth of a child until first responders arrive. After determining the nature of the situation, Advisors can provide rapid guidance, which may result in potentially lifesaving actions. OnStar Advisors who will be providing this service are specially trained and certified by the National Academies of Emergency Dispatch™ (NAED) using the Medical Priority Dispatch System (MPDS) protocol. This service, available at no additional cost to active OnStar subscribers, will compliment the efforts of public safety professionals by allowing Advisors to act as a conduit for requesting services for on-scene rescue and support for its subscribers in need.

A New Marketing Campaign

Preuss also revealed a new marketing and engagement campaign that will stretch the definition and understanding of the brand, while engaging its customers as advocates. The campaign will focus on the awareness, simplicity and power of the blue button with the theme "Live On"– Safely Connecting you in ways you never thought possible." The campaign, created by OnStar's ad agency Campbell-Ewald, will include print, broadcast and online executions.

"We wanted our campaign to be bottom-up, built around engagement and social media with a strong element of advertising", said OnStar's Chief Marketing Officer, Sam Mancuso. "The campaigns of the past were almost exclusively based on traditional advertising and were highly focused on real life stories of our customers. While effective, the premise was more around "hope to goodness you don't need it" versus "I don't want to drive without it." Our new campaign will be built around our customers as advocates, but it will also be more optimistic and will feature the full breadth of features we have now and will be adding in the future. This is key to our new business strategy."

The campaign launches Monday, Sept. 20, 2010.

Preuss said the new business strategy will be built around the highly successful and profitable subscription model and leaves open the possibility that OnStar could expand beyond the automotive space into other areas where safety and security with a telematics enabler would be relevant.

"One aspect of our business that will never change is our live advisors who are just a simple button press away," said Preuss. "They are what set us apart, and they'll continue to be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week."



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OMG: Facebook comes to the car

Richard Blackburn

September 15, 2010

Comments 4

GM announce Facebook for your car

GM have teamed up with OnStar to provide Facebook access for cars.

A US company is developing technology that allows drivers to use Facebook on the run.

Drivers in the United States will soon be able to update their Facebook page while they are driving.

The developers of the new technology say it won’t unduly distract drivers because the updates will be voice-activated.

OnStar, the technology arm of General Motors, says the new system would allow Facebook users to verbally update their Facebook status and listen to news-feed messages.

Drivers will also be able to compose voice-based SMS messages and have text messages read to them via Bluetooth.

They can then press a button on the steering wheel and reply to the messages by verbally selecting a pre-set response.

The new system is one of many being developed by car makers to connect with the digital generation. BMW is offering internet access on its top-of-the-line 7-Series, while Mercedes-Benz has developed a wireless hotspot for its E-Class and S-Class sedans.

OnStar says the technology is being developed under the banner of “responsible connectivity”, with special attention paid to not diverting the driver’s eyes from the road ahead.

But some studies have found that even “hands-free” applications have the potential to distract drivers.

OnStar will also develop a series of applications for smartphones that will perform the various functions usually found on a keyfob, remotely opening doors and turning on air-conditioning or heating systems.

The company has asked university students to help design the technology and develop applications to keep them connected on the road.



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GM CEO: OnStar Is Not LifeAlert For Cars

Dan Akerson, the new General Motors CEO, in his first Detroit interviews, explains OnStar's new direction in terms Buick owners understand.



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