General Motors’ OnStar connected services system has many practical functions, including giving motorists direct access to a specialist call centre operator while on the road at the push of a button.
We used it a number of times at the international launch of the new Opel Astra hatch in Europe last week, pressing the blue button to ask fairly mundane questions in search of assistance and guidance.
Sometimes, however, the conversations are a little different.
OnStar global expansion director Jon Hyde told us the majority of calls are genuine requests from motorists in ordinary situations, though admitted that as a call centre operator, “you get everything”.
“We’ve had people calling in where they’ve had a pet monkey in the car that locked the doors with the keys in it,” Hyde revealed.
“Dogs are always stepping on locks and that kind of stuff. You can’t imagine the kind of stuff that goes on inside a car.”
Asked if motorists ever ‘trolled’ the OnStar call centre, Hyde admitted it occurred “very, very rarely”.
“Of course you get guys who are drunk calling in occasionally,” he said.
He also confirmed that in rare circumstances OnStar has been forced to cancel owners’ subscriptions for repeated misuse of the service. OnStar operators have helped 5.5 million drivers in emergency situations over the past 20 years, and can't afford to waste time with persistent trouble-makers.
Though largely unknown in Australia, OnStar has been available overseas for almost 20 years and is the world’s leading provider of connected safety and security solutions, mobility services and advanced information technology in China, Mexico and North America, with more than seven million users in those markets.
The latest version of the system has recently launched in 13 European countries, including France, Germany and the UK.
Holden customers will be forced to wait a few years before unleashing their pet dogs and monkeys in OnStar-equipped vehicles, however, with Australia currently waiting in the queue for the technology behind other larger markets.
In addition to call centre access, OnStar incorporates a host of functions including a 4G Wi-Fi hotspot that allows passengers to connect to the internet on up to seven devices, the ability to have navigation destinations sent to your car as you drive, and access to a smartphone app that can operate certain functions of the car remotely and display real-time vehicle diagnostic information.
OnStar also features a red SOS button that allows drivers to request emergency assistance as well as an automatic emergency response function that notifies emergency services of a vehicle’s location if it has been involved in a crash and its occupants are unresponsive to a call from an operator.