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|Headquarters||Detroit, Michigan, USA|
|Mary Chan, president|
OnStar Corporation is a subsidiary of General Motors that provides subscription-based communications, in-vehicle security, hands-free calling, turn-by-turn navigation, and remote diagnostics systems throughout the United States, Canada, China, Mexico, Europe, Brazil and Argentina. A similar service is known as ChevyStar in Latin American markets (except in Mexico, Brazil and Argentina). In September 2011 the president of OnStar stated that the service had more than six million customers.
A new aftermarket interior rear-view mirror with a built-in OnStar module, branded as OnStar FMV, became available to the public on July 24, 2011. It provides some of the features an OEM system has, such as Automatic Crash Response, Stolen Vehicle Tracking, Turn-by-Turn Navigation, and Roadside Assistance.
The OnStar service relied on CDMA mobile phone voice and data communication, primarily via Verizon Wireless in the United States and Bell Mobility in Canada, as well as location information using GPS technology. AT&T announced the contract to replace Verizon in 2013 based on 4G technology from 2014. Drivers and passengers can use its audio interface to contact OnStar representatives for emergency services, vehicle diagnostics and directions.
The OnStar service allows users to contact OnStar call centers during an emergency. In the event of a collision, detected by airbag deployment or other sensors, Advanced Automatic Collision Notification features can automatically send information about the vehicle's condition and GPS location to OnStar call centers. OnStar has 24-hour emergency call centers in Warren, Michigan; Charlotte, North Carolina; and Ontario, Canada, and other call centers in Makati, Philippines; and Oshawa, Ontario. This Advanced Automatic Collision Notification service is designed to assist emergency response efforts.
All OnStar-equipped vehicles have Stolen Vehicle Tracking, which can provide the police with the vehicle's exact location, speed, and direction of movement.
Starting in the 2009 model year, General Motors began equipping some new vehicles with Stolen Vehicle Slowdown. This feature allows OnStar to remotely slow down the stolen vehicle. The service is also expected to help reduce the risk of property damage, serious injuries or fatalities resulting from high-speed pursuits of stolen vehicles. Customers may opt out of that function. The first successful use of this service occurred in October 2009 when a stolen Chevrolet Tahoe was recovered and its suspected thief was apprehended.
Also in 2009, General Motors began equipping some new vehicles with Remote Ignition Block, allowing OnStar to remotely deactivate the ignition so when the stolen vehicle is shut off, it cannot be restarted.
All Stolen Vehicle Assistance services (Stolen Vehicle Tracking, Stolen Vehicle Slowdown and Remote Ignition Block) can be requested by the OnStar subscriber, but OnStar will not activate them until confirming with the police that the vehicle has been reported as stolen.
OnStar subscribers may be eligible for anti-theft and low mileage insurance discounts. Since OnStar can help with the recovery of a stolen vehicle, some insurance companies recognize this and offer a discount. Also, with certain insurance companies (for example, GMAC Insurance) and with subscriber permission, OnStar will send the insurance company the vehicle's odometer reading every month. If the subscriber qualifies as a low-mileage driver, they may be eligible for an insurance discount.
Even if the vehicle is OnStar equipped, no OnStar services are available until the system is activated. Vehicle owners can choose between three plans:
- Protection: $19.99/mo, which includes Advanced Automatic Collision Notification, Emergency Services, Crisis Assist, Roadside Assistance, Remote Access, Advanced Diagnostics and 24/7 access to Advisors
- Security: $24.99/mo, includes all services in the Protection plan, plus Stolen Vehicle Assistance
- Guidance: $34.99/mo, includes all services in the Security plan, plus turn-by-turn navigation, OnStar AtYourService, and 30 Hands-Free Calling Minutes
OnStar was formed in 1996 as a collaboration between GM, Electronic Data Systems and Hughes Electronics Corporation. Each of the founding companies brought a specific area of expertise to the enterprise: GM brought vehicle design and integration and a distribution system of millions of vehicles, EDS brought much of the systems development and information management and customer service technologies, while Hughes contributed communications and satellite technology and automotive electronics.
In 1996, GM North America Operations President Rick Wagoner officially launched OnStar at the Chicago Auto Show. OnStar delivered its first product and service to the market in 11 months, in the fall of 1996 for model-year 1997 Cadillac DeVille, Cadillac Seville and Cadillac Eldorado models. From 2002 to 2006, OnStar service was available on vehicles produced by Acura, Isuzu, Subaru and Volkswagen through a licensing agreement.
In April 2006, GM notified approximately 500,000 of their OnStar customers who had analog service that their service would be terminated effective December 31, 2007, because starting February 18, 2008 the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) would no longer require US cell phone systems to operate in analog mode. Customers who purchased a prepaid, non-refundable, non-transferable 1-year OnStar Safe & Sound subscription were scheduled to receive an equipment upgrade. If the vehicle is from the 2003, 2004, or 2005 model year, an adapter costing approximately US$200 (includes a one-year subscription) can be installed at the customer's expense. If it is older, it will simply no longer be usable. A law firm in Pennsylvania representing some of the affected customers sought to have a class certified for a class action lawsuit for damages claimed in the cancellation of OnStar service.
Since 2014 OnStar offers LTE Wifi service on select GM cars
In December 2009, Shanghai OnStar Telematics Co. Ltd., a joint venture between General Motors, SAIC Group and SGM (Shanghai GM), began offering its services in China. It is available on select Cadillac, Buick and Chevrolet vehicles and China Telecom is the wireless network provider throughout China. The service will be available throughout mainland China and will be first launched in Mandarin Chinese.
In June 2013, OnStar announced its entry to the Mexican market. The first vehicles who obtained the system were the 2014 Chevrolet Cheyenne and the 2014 GMC Sierra. Currently it is expanding to other vehicles such as the Buick Regal, Chevrolet Trax, Cadillac SRX, Chevrolet Malibu, etc.
Advocates promote Onstar as an essential safety tool. GM commercials have compared it to seatbelts and airbags, as the next major technology for safe driving. The benefits, they say, include its ability to aid police in tracking down stolen vehicles; contacting emergency medical services in case of an accident (should the driver request this or be non-responsive); notifying drivers of potentially dangerous mechanical problems; emails are sent to owners that give a diagnostics of their vehicle every month if subscribed to; and unlocking doors for drivers (after verifying authorization over the phone) should their keys be misplaced or locked inside their car. OnStar's basic subscription also includes Roadside assistance, as well HFC (Hands Free Calling) which is integrated into the OnStar system and operates in the same way as a regular cell phone does except that it is operated through voice recognition. Automatic Crash Response allows emergency advisors to provide emergency medical services (EMS) with additional crash information such as rollover status, direction of impact, which airbags have deployed (front, side etc.,) and the Delta-V (change in velocity) Force which is a medical measure of the intensity of an impact. All this information allows EMS to respond to the crash with appropriate equipment.
In September 2011, OnStar has changed its terms and conditions to allow sale of vehicle location and speeds to interested third parties including law enforcement agencies, which has been criticized in the comp.risks forum.
Use as surveillance device
OnStar is theoretically possible to be remotely activated by malicious third parties or under government order. This activation would enable third parties to track the location of the car, along with the ability to listen to the contents of any conversations carried on by the occupants within the car without their consent. However, the FBI has been denied the ability to use this as it disables OnStar's safety features as determined by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. In its document of privacy practices, OnStar states that it is not possible for them to listen to or monitor conversations in a car without the knowledge of the occupant. The hardware is designed so that when an advisor calls into a car, a light flashes, a ring tone is heard, and the radio will mute.
In 2011, OnStar said that it would start retaining all the information collected by the GPS and internal system so that it could be sold to third parties (possibly insurance companies). Although this data is supposed to be “anonymized”, exactly what they mean by to anonymize GPS data remains unclear and is difficult to do.[verification needed] A few weeks later, after outcry from subscribers and privacy advocate groups, OnStar reversed the decision to continue collecting information from unsubscribed units.
In 2000, GM produced a series of Batman OnStar commercials that featured Batman (using the Batmobile and props from the 1989 film) using the service to call people, access his mail, navigate to certain locations, and to unlock the Batmobile. These were discontinued with radio commercials.
GM promoted the service with radio commercials (called "Real Calls") demonstrating how it would work. It provided the recording of someone interacting with OnStar in various scenarios designed to show its utility. The commercials stated that these were recordings of actual instances of customers using the services, and gave the date on which they occurred.
In September, 2010 under then President Chris Preuss, OnStar relaunched its brand with a series of commercials with the theme of “Live On”. According to Chief Marketing Officer Sam Mancuso, the campaign was designed to change how people view OnStar, “It’s not about waiting for something to happen but something people can use every day.”
From 2008, OnStar has offered "Santa tracking" in all equipped vehicles around the festive period. This has allowed children worldwide to see Santa's location on Christmas Eve. Each time this feature is used, OnStar also made donations to various charities.
GM is currently deploying OnStar Generation 10 hardware that includes enhanced services and diagnostics and the ability to use the mobile application, RemoteLink, which allows a subscriber to perform many functions without the need for calling into the OnStar center. Functions include remote start, remote lock and unlock, flashing lights and horn as well as viewing up-to-date diagnostics data from the subscriber's iPhone or Android-powered mobile phone. OnStar hardware is currently only manufactured by LG Electronics as of 2011, although early models were made by Hughes for Gen 1, Delphi, for Gen 2 and Motorola for Gen 4 to Gen 6.
The Gen 1 to Gen 4 models were analog. All were for Class 2 bus. Gen 5 models were a transition period. Some Gen 5 models actually contained both analog and digital cellular phone modules. Also, there were both Class 2 and CAN bus models.
The Gen 6 and up models are CDMA digital. Some were Class 2 bus and some were CAN (Controller Area Network) bus.
Some Gen 5 and Gen 6 models were compatible with each other providing some upgrades to some customers to Digital. Analog cellular was turned off in Feb, 2008. Customers that had the Gen 1 through Gen 4 models were unable to upgrade to the Digital Gen 6.
No compatibility in Gen 1 and 4 with other models.
Vulnerability to hacking
On July 30, 2015, Samy Kamkar introduced OwnStar - a small electronic device that could be concealed on or near a General Motors vehicle to interpose itself between the vehicle's OnStar link and the driver's OnStar RemoteLink app. In this classic man-in-the-middle attack, Kamkar, or any unauthorized user, could substitute his OnStar commands to locate, unlock, or start the vehicle. By August 11, General Motors had released upgrades to the OnStar server software and RemoteLink app to block such attacks.
- Advanced Automatic Collision Notification
- Dashtop mobile
- GPS tracking unit
- Lexus Link
- Vehicle tracking system
- GM News Site GM Corporate Newsroom website
- "Device can remotely halt auto chases" Chris Woodyard, USA TODAY, 2007-10-09
- "OnStar stops truck that was carjacked at gunpoint" Los Angeles Times, October 19, 2009. Retrieved October 30, 2009.
- "OnStar announces Remote Ignition Block for stolen vehicles"
- OnStar's Plans & Pricing Page
- "OnStar Goes Digital, GM to Drop 500,000 Subscribers." Benton, Joe April 10, 2007. Consumeraffairs.com. Retrieved May 1, 2007
- "GM-OnStar Class Action Defense Case-In re General Motors OnStar: Judicial Panel On Multidistrict Litigation (MDL) Grants Defense Motion To Centralize Class Action Litigation In Eastern District of Michigan" Times-Leader, Pennsylvania, May 1, 2007. Retrieved May 1, 2007.[dead link]
- Siceloff, Bruce (2011-12-20). "Phone-free driving law wouldn't be popular". News & Observer. Retrieved 2011-12-21.
- "Court to FBI: No spying on in-car computers" CNet News, November 19, 2003. Retrieved on June 7, 2010.
-  Archived December 16, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
- Woodcock, Glen (2015-08-11). "OnStar Plugs Hacker Attacks". Autonet. Retrieved 2015-08-11.