Monday, March 21, 2011

OnStar for everyone.

Starting this spring, OnStar will begin selling their OnStar Anywhere product for $299. Essentially it's an OnStar-equipped rearview mirror that you swap out for your existing mirror. It's designed to allow access to many of OnStar's services for either a monthly or annual fee. Because the mirror itself includes accelerometers, it will allegedly be able to detect a crash and call OnStar for you. In addition, it provides access to emergency services, stolen vehicle location (it has built-in GPS too), turn-by-turn navigation (call them, tell them where you want to go, and OnStar will download directions into your mirror), roadside assistance and hands-free calling via bluetooth to your phone.
Now I'm ambivalent about OnStar. Frankly I don't see the point, and I think their fear-mongering TV commercials are patronising and unethical. But this at least product does get rid of the biggest evil - because it's a standalone device, it's not hooked in to your car's on-board computer or engine management system, meaning it's not open for hacking and abuse. Of course this also means that if you're dumb enough to lock your keys in your car, GM can't unlock it for you.
However because it has a mic in it for the hands-free telephone integration, OnStar will be able to listen in to whatever is going on in the car, whenever they want, and the GPS can be used to track you without you knowing. Both have happened before, and both will happen again - don't kid yourself that the law will protect you on that front.
So if you're desperate for the mental crutch that OnStar provides, and don't mind a constant GM spy in your car, it's yours shortly for $299 and a recurring fee.


Mystery Girl said...

This is tech for the sake of tech. I will not be joining the sheep line.

Anonymous said...

Actually, like anything, OnStar, is quite an important device for those who need it. A lot GM cars come with it but a lot of owners do not renew after the initial trial period. If you live outside a city, are forgetful, have a high value car, or just are a bad driver, OnStar can be a life saving device in so many ways. To allow this device to be installed on cars other than GM cars can provide an excellent service for many. A couple of years ago riding with a friend that has OnStar at a vacation city it helped us find an ATM, a service station and a address. Quite handy. People pay for GPS. OnStar equates to that but with personal service.

Chris said...

I have two direct experiences of OnStar. The first time I'd just read a book on social engineering and was able to get GM to remote unlock a car that wasn't mine with such ease that it was a joke. The second time a colleague used it in his car and they directed us to a branch of Checker that had been closed for 6 years. If you want to know how to do the former, read Kevin Mitnick's book.