This is your (helpful) big brother: What Opel's OnStar system will do for you
Published 08/07/2015 | 02:30
It's all about peace of mind, really. And how much you are prepared to pay for it. Everything else follows from that.
Opel's OnStar is a sort of friendly big brother you call on in a crisis, or for tips on where to go, how to get there and what to watch out for.
It will even get your flat tyre sorted if you're stranded. Indeed on the basis of what I've been told you won't need your conventional roadside assistance package. The company, a wholly owned subsidiary of Opel, will pick up the tab for jump-starting your flat battery for example.
But the core of the service is that if you crash or are in an emergency either the car itself will raise the alarm, or you can press a button and get help as quickly as possible.
Should your airbag deploy the car will automatically alert the nearest emergency service. In some conditions where your car mightn't be seen it will honk the horn and activate the flashers.
And every month you'll get a diagnostics update on your motor's overall performance.
You will also be able to connect your vehicle remotely through a smartphone app which will let you contact OnStar from anywhere in Europe, remotely lock or unlock or find it and so on. Additionally the new system lets you download destinations to the in-car navigation system and generally manage the vehicle's in-built wi-fi hotspot settings.
It starts here in September/October with the new Astra but will eventually be in better-spec versions of all models and options on most others. This will be an around-the-clock 24/7 service.
The OnStar system is part of a growing level of connectivity and EU regulatory requirements about alerting authorities in the event of an accident.
A wifi package, capable of coping with seven devices in the car, will follow and there will be a tiered pricing system for that. The lowest cost version in America starts at $5 a month.
So what would you pay for the peace of mind the basic system provides? I think it all comes down to that. It will be free for the first year. After that I expect it will cost around €99 a year. What do you currently pay for your roadside assistance cover? Seems to me that is one of the major financial attractions.
On more important fronts, we listened to examples from the US , where it has millions of users, of people telling how OnStar's SOS system alerted the nearest emergency services and saved their lives.
The system has been going in the US for years and they are nearing their billionth 'customer interaction'.
I contributed a few to that when I took an Insignia with OnStar on board for a test near Luton last week.
All I had to do was press a button to be put through to the Command Centre.
Not alone did they download my route but a nice man even dealt with my request (it was hot) about the location of the nearest shop selling ice cream.
But in everyday driving if you don't want someone to know where you are you can press the privacy button. You can still talk to the OnStar centre 24/7 - they just won't know where you are.
Finally it has to be said that we've had such, or similar, systems in other brands - the likes of Audi, BMW and Mercedes. But Opel claim they're bringing it to the mass market for the first time.
One other benefit is that you can get the folks at the Command Centre to unlock your car should you forget keys or leave a child or pet inside. As soon as you clear your credentials with the centre they can open it remotely.
You get the sense doors are opening in all directions when it comes to the crossroads where the car and digital highways meet.