Just Car Blog
|About Face: OnStar Cancels Planned Changes To Terms And Conditions||
What an eventful few weeks it’s been for OnStar. Last week, a story broke that the telematics service would continue collecting customer data even after the service was cancelled by the user. Worse, OnStar was requesting the right to sell that data (in anonymous, aggregate form) to third party companies, which prompted a public outcry. New York Senator Chuck Schumer even got involved, asking the FTC to probe the legality of OnStar’s data harvesting.
As of yesterday, OnStar has reversed it’s position on changes to terms and conditions. As before, canceling the service will terminate the collection of data from a specific vehicle, without any additional opting out required from the former user. OnStar President Linda Marshall expressed her regrets at the confusion or concern caused by the proposed changes, saying that the proposed amendments “did not satisfy our subscribers.”
OnStar isn’t ruling out keeping a data connection if the service is terminated, but customers would need to opt-in for such a service. On the positive side, OnStar tells customers that such a feature could provide critical data about vehicle recalls, natural disasters and other urgent bits of information. Customers would also get to specify what happens with any data collected, which is a significant change from the previously proposed terms and conditions.
|OnStar Responds: New Video Addresses Terms & Conditions Concerns||
OnStar is the most recognized telematics system for vehicles around. We praise OnStar for their improvements over the years making not only owners of GM vehicles lives better, but reaching out to consumers of other vehicles via their new FMV (for my vehicle) program. In a recent post we highlighted some of the more recent changes to OnStar’s Terms & Conditions and data collection practices. OnStar kindly responded with a new “Clarification on Onstar’s Terms & Conditions” video. Anyone having the slightest doubt about their privacy and security related to OnStar are highly urged to view the video below in its entirety.
|Big Brother Is Watching: OnStar’s New Terms & Conditions||
If you subscribe to the OnStar telematics system, chances are good that you ignored a recent e-mail about changes to terms and conditions. If you haven’t already binned the e-mail, we suggest you read it carefully: as The New York Times points out, the changes could have a dramatic impact on your privacy behind the wheel.
Two changes to the terms and conditions are significant. First, canceling the OnStar service no longer means the termination of two-way communications between your vehicle and OnStar. In other words, even if you’re not paying for OnStar, the service is still collecting GPS data from your vehicle.
Which brings me to the second change: the data that OnStar collects from your vehicle can be sold to third party companies expressing interest. What data can OnStar collect and sell? How about information on vehicle speed and location, current odometer reading, seat belt usage, and deployment of any vehicle air bags.
Under the latest terms and conditions, OnStar will “aggregate” the data collected to protect user privacy, but that’s likely to be a temporary situation. Language in the new terms and conditions could allow OnStar to sell your specific data to municipalities and companies who specialize in targeted marketing.
I’m not as paranoid as some who believe the information will be used for law enforcement (imagine the fun of automatically generated traffic citations, for each and every violation you commit) or insurance purposes (better: how about a monthly rate adjustment based on your habitual speeding habits), but there’s clearly an ominous tone here. At the very least, you stand to be spam-bombed by marketing companies who now track your every move behind the wheel. At worst, the data collected can be used against you to raise insurance rates, or impact your credit rating or even ticket you for offenses your car is tracked committing.
You can opt out of the OnStar service and terminate vehicle tracking, but you must contact them directly to do so. Even then, there’s no way to tell if the service has been disabled, unless you physically disconnect the (hidden) OnStar antenna, or disconnect its (again hidden) data logger. Clearly, neither GM nor OnStar want to make this an easy process.
I’d be the first to admit that OnStar has its upsides, but to me the privacy concerns overrule any potential benefits. What’s your take? Are the recent changes to the OnStar system no big deal, or is this the start of a dangerous new trend? Do you currently have OnStar in your vehicle, and will the new terms and conditions affect your perception of the service? Would you avoid buying a new vehicle with such a service?
|OnStar Will Soon Be Available To Non-GM Drivers||
Do you like the concept of OnStar, but hate the fact that it’s only offered on GM vehicles? Do you yearn for that little blue button on the rearview mirror in your Honda Accord? According to Jalopnik, there’s good news: OnStar is poised to launch OnStar Anywhere, their first foray into the aftermarket accessory business. The $299 (excluding installation charges) mirror will include most of the features found on the GM version, less a few that require significant vehicle integration. You’ll get stolen vehicle tracking, for example, but OnStar Anywhere won’t have the capability of shutting down your stolen car. Lock your keys inside (which is nearly impossible with modern keyless entry vehicles), and OnStar Anywhere won’t save your bacon.
So what do you get for your money, plus a service fee that starts at $18.95 per month? Here’s a rundown of anticipated features:
Auto Crash Detection and Response. Using a series of accelerometers in the mirror itself, OnStar will be notified if the sensors detect a significant frontal, rear or side impact. What happens when your OnStar Anywhere equipped Dodge Viper pulls over a G in a corner? I guess we’ll find out soon enough.
Emergency Assistance. Just like the GM version, hitting the red “panic button” will connect you to an OnStar emergency operator.
Stolen Vehicle Locator. Like the GM version, OnStar Anywhere will tell police where your stolen car is. It’s not capable, however, of shutting it down.
Turn-By-Turn Navigation. OnStar Anywhere will provide spoken directions, but it won’t give you the arrows or text on the dash information display provided by the fully integrated version.
Roadside Assistance. Break down by the side of the road, and help is just a push of the blue button away.
Bluetooth Integration. OnStar Anywhere provides hands free calling when integrated with a mobile phone. If you are one of the five people in America without a mobile phone, you can also buy pre-paid minutes and use OnStar Anywhere as your mobile phone.
OnStar claims that OnStar Anywhere will work with 99% of the 20 best selling, non-GM cars of the past ten years. In other words, installing it in your Toyota Camry, Ford F-150, Honda Accord or Nissan Altima shouldn’t be a problem. Hooking up your Ferrari F430, on the other hand, may pose a few challenges. Look for OnStar Anywhere to hit consumer electronic retailers within the next few months.
OnStar Expands Beyond GM Cars:
OnStar “Blue Button” Safety, Security and Connectivity
Now Available for Most Top-Selling Vehicles on the Road Today
* For the first time, OnStar’s industry leading safety, security and connectivity services are available to consumers in a standalone rearview mirror
* Retail product to offer key OnStar features including Automatic Crash Response
* Available in the U.S. in spring 2011 for $299;Best Buy announced as first strategic retail partner, with over 1,100 stores; other selected retailers to follow
Las Vegas, Jan. 4, 2011- OnStar today announced that it is responding to repeated consumer requests by offering its industry leading safety, security and connectivity services for non-GM and older GM vehicles already on the road. A standalone rearview mirror packing all of OnStar’s core technology will be available this spring through consumer electronics retailers, and is compatible with most top-selling vehicles from major manufacturers.
The OnStar retail product offers the key features that have made OnStar’s “blue button” an icon, including Automatic Crash Response, Turn-by-Turn Navigation, Stolen Vehicle Location Assistance, one-button access to emergency and roadside services, and hands-free calling, including Bluetooth connectivity.
“For years, thousands of drivers have asked us to get OnStar in vehicles that didn’t feature it as standard,” said Chris Preuss, OnStar president. “With the retail product that we’ve introduced today they certainly can. This move in to the consumer electronics space represents the biggest development in our business model since introducing OnStar as standard across all GM products several years ago. It represents a quantum leap forward in our plans to grow our business and provide a strong new revenue base for GM and OnStar from which we can further develop our core offerings in the factory-equipped market.”
OnStar will offer the mirror in the United States through Best Buy, its first strategic retail partner, beginning in spring 2011. The product will also be available through other selected consumer electronics retailers. The mirror will be priced at $299, plus installation (expected to cost between $75 and $100). A range of service plans will be available, starting at $18.95 a month or $199 a year.
“We’re proud to be OnStar’s first strategic retail partner for this innovative offering, which is one more way Best Buy can help our customers stay connected whenever and wherever they want,” said Lisa Farrell, senior vice president and general manager portable electronics customer solutions group at Best Buy. “We provide a one-stop solution for consumers. In addition to purchasing the device at Best Buy, we offer our customers the convenience of having it installed by our Geek Squad Auto Techs – all at one location.”
Ingram Micro will serve as the key distributor of this product and is the main contact for interested retail outlets.
Currently, the OnStar mirror is certified to work on 99 percent of the top 20 selling non-GM vehicles over the last 10 years, or approximately 55 million cars and trucks. OnStar expects to certify additional models in the months ahead.
Key features of the OnStar mirror include:
* Automatic Crash Response. An accelerometer built into OnStar the mirror detects the sudden shock of an impact from the front, side, or rear of the vehicle and automatically calls an OnStar advisor. If the driver doesn’t respond, or responds to say there has been a crash, an OnStar advisor will direct emergency responders to the exact GPS location of the vehicle.
* Link to Emergency Services. By pressing OnStar’s red emergency button, drivers are immediately connected to a specially trained emergency advisor for assistance in situations occurring inside or outside of their vehicle.
* Stolen Vehicle Location Assistance. If the vehicle is reported stolen to local law enforcement, OnStar subscribers can call 1-888-4-OnStar (1-888-466-7827) from any phone. OnStar advisors, available 24/7, can attempt to locate the vehicle through the mirror’s internal GPS and provide the location to law enforcement.
* Turn-by-Turn Navigation. With OnStar’s most popular service, drivers can press OnStar’s blue button and ask OnStar advisors for directions to a specific location or ask the advisor to find a point of interest such as a gas station or nearby restaurant. The directions are then downloaded to the OnStar system, which provides spoken turn-by-turn directions for reaching the destination.
* Roadside Assistance. In non-emergency situations, drivers can push the blue button or call 1-888-4-ONSTAR for help with problems such as keys locked in the vehicle, a flat tire, or running out of gas.
* Hands-Free Calling. OnStar allows drivers to make hands-free, voice-activated calls either through a Bluetooth connection to the driver’s mobile phone or through prepaid packages of minutes purchased through OnStar.
All these services are available directly through the OnStar mirror, without requiring the driver to bring along a mobile phone or even own a mobile phone. In the event of an accident, emergency services are alerted even if there is no mobile phone in the vehicle, the phone is damaged in a crash or the driver is unable to use a phone.
OnStar is now in its ninth generation of technology. The first-generation OnStar product in 1996 was comprised of 38 individual components and could take up to four days to install. Now all of the technology required to deliver the OnStar experience fits inside a rearview mirror weighing only 23 ounces, and professional installation is expected to take less than an hour. This requires removing the vehicle’s current rearview mirror, replacing it with the OnStar product and running an electric power source to the new mirror.
For more information on OnStar’s innovation, the new OnStar mirror and a list of the compatible vehicles at launch, visitwww.onstar.com.
OnStar, a wholly owned subsidiary of General Motors, is the leading provider of connected safety and security solutions, value-added mobility services and advanced information technology. Currently available on more than 40 MY 2011 GM models, OnStar soon will be available for installation on most other vehicles already on the road through local electronics retailers, including Best Buy. OnStar safely connects its more than six million subscribers, in the U.S., Canada and China, in ways never thought possible. OnStar Stolen Vehicle Slowdown is a recipient of the 2010 Edison Award for Best New Product in the technology category. More information about OnStar can be found atwww.onstar.com.