OnStar Immersion!

I have used lots of words on this here blog talking (err, writing) about how much I love OnStar and all of the technology that goes with it. It’s always a treat when I get to borrow a car from General Motors and have a week or so to press that little blue OnStar button for directions and other assistance. That’s why I was thrilled to be invited, with a group of other bloggers, to experience an OnStar Immersion Experience in Detroit last month.

OnStar Logo

(Disclosure: OnStar provided my transportation, food, and accommodations for the weekend trip without requiring anything from me: I’m writing this post because I want to, and, truthfully, because I love them.)

“Immersion” was the perfect word for it: the folks at OnStar jam-packed our schedule with all kinds of cool activities meant to teach us about OnStar and how it works, including testing out the OnStar Stolen Vehicle Slowdown Service, which was really fun because I got to be an accomplice to my friend Mocha Dad as he “stole” an awesome Buick Enclave. More about that in a minute.

One of the most interesting stops during the weekend was the headquarters of OnStar (located in the GM Renaissance Center), where we got some great information from Phil Abram, Chief Infotainment Officer for General Motors, and Terry Inch, Chief Operating Officer for OnStar. I took notes on what I thought was most important and fascinating:

**Starting in 2015, GM vehicles will have a 4G LTE connection. Woot! So many great things about this news for us folks who enjoy being connected wherever we go.

**OnStar’s first priorities are always safety and security, but after that they want to make cars smarter and personalized, and provide more value to the consumer.

**OnStar talks and listens to customers every day like no other company does: 185,000 of them, daily. Let me repeat that: 185,000 customers are in contact with OnStar EVERY. DAY.

**About 100,000 times each month, customers are “deputizing” themselves when they see someone who needs help and then use OnStar to get it for them.

**All emergency advisors are trained in Emergency Medical Dispatch.

Next we were led to the OnStar Command Center. I geeked out a little bit at the maps, monitors, and charts on the wall.

OnStar Command Center

The huge map of the United States was pretty awesome. In the morning it’s empty, but as the day goes on, little symbols (mostly blue) dot the map from east to west as customers actually press the buttons on their OnStar unit. They also monitor news and traffic in metropolitan areas there, just for starters.

We received a tour of the tech lab, which was very cool: they’re working on installing cameras all over a vehicle (inside and out). The bloggers in our group were split down the middle on the usefulness of that but nonetheless it was interesting to see the concept in action.

After we spent time at a call center sitting next to some of OnStar’s finest advisors, we got to team up for the Stolen Vehicle Slowdown demonstrations. My buddy Mocha Dad was pretty excited to be the car thief, and I was happy to be one of the accessories to the crime. I had to sit in the back seat because the OnStar professional called shotgun. (Darn.)

Once we were buckled in (Safety first!), Mocha Dad was told to put the pedal to the medal. He didn’t need to be asked twice: before we knew it we were speeding down a straightaway behind the OnStar Call Center we had just visited.

When we got going, our OnStar rep pressed the button on the mirror and went through the role play with the advisor so we could see how it all worked. He reported the vehicle as stolen, and she used GPS to locate us and then (pretend to) contact local authorities.

When our pretend police officers caught up to us, identified us as the correct stolen vehicle and verified that it was okay to slow us down, they let OnStar know. OnStar then sent a message to our Enclave to flicker the lights and then, as hard as Mocha Dad was pressing on the gas pedal, the engine power reduced so much that the brakes and steering system were the only operable driving features so Mocha Dad could pull over and then cut and run, if he wanted to do that.

(Unfortunately he didn’t leave the vehicle during the simulation and now that I think about it I think we need to go back to Detroit for a do-over because I would LOVE to get a picture of Fred ripping off his seat belt and exiting the car so he could run for the hills, all in the name of a good Grand Theft Auto fakeout. I guess I’ll just have to imagine it.)

Anyway, the sensation of being in a car that is being slowed down from elsewhere was surreal. (And in case you wondered, OnStar does take privacy very seriously and goes through the proper channels (police, courts, etc.) before tracking and/or slowing down a vehicle.) I’m so glad I got to experience it!

I loved so much about my OnStar visit that I am splitting it into two posts:
Coming up tomorrow…my time as an OnStar Advisor! (okay, WITH an OnStar Advisor. Sigh, technicalities.)

Repeat Disclosure: OnStar provided my transportation, food, and accommodations for the weekend trip without requiring anything from me: I’m writing this post because I want to, and because I love them. All pictures and video in this post were provided to me by OnStar, but all the words and opinions are, as usual, mine!