Sunday, March 18, 2007

Right On

I want to preface this post with the fact that I am not in anyway affiliated with OnStar or any company it may be parented by...I don't work for them, never have (probably never will) and certainly don't get any kick backs.

As an addition to my post about the self protection features of SUVs or 4x4s I wanted to talk about OnStar.

It's a service (for those readers in countries that don't have it) that comes in certain brands of cars that will, for a monthly fee, do certain things.

The base fee covers security, the next level offers things like directions and phone service and the premium package has a concierge service for booking restaurants and theatre tickets etc.

In the vehicle are a series of 3 buttons that you push depending on what you need and, when you push them, you are connected, hands free, to a real live operator.

Here's what I love about the system.

1. If your airbags go off, they call the car. If you don't respond they immediately dispatch emergency services. I listened to a chilling recording of a phone call one night on a current affairs program. It was from a woman in Florida who drowned in her car. She had driven off the highway at speed and ended up in the everglades with water leaking into the car. She pulled her cellphone out, and contacted emergency services but they couldn't locate her in time (The current affairs show was about the inability of emergency services to triangulate and locate cell phone signals) The same thing happened here to a girl in nearby Gastonia. She rolled her car into someone's field. When they found her three days later she had written a note to her family while she lay trapped and dying in the car. The OnStar feature in either of those two scenarios would have literally meant the difference between life and death.

2. If your car is stolen the police are called. Once you have a report number they call OnStar and they locate the car via the GPS system. My local Caddy dealer told me about one of their vehicles stolen by four black hip hop fans who cut the wire from the buttons thinking that would disable the tracking. The dealership realized about 5 hours later their car was missing. OnStar got involved and found the would be thieves in Richmond VA heading north. State Troopers were called and they blocked them on the Chesapeake Bay bridge.

3. Should you accidentally lock the keys in the car you call in and give them your pin number. Voila, they pop the locks from their control center.

4. If you or a family member is driving the car and is being followed by a suspicious vehicle or involved in a road rage incident etc they can push the emergency button and relay the info to OnStar who dispatch emergency services again. They also stay on the line till the professionals arrive.

5. Imagine your wife driving the car somewhere and getting lost and ending up in the wrong part of town? That happened to the family in LA that drove into the gang area and were shot for "trespassing" that was in the news a few years back. With the OnStar system you call them and they talk you through the directions step by step till you arrive at your destination.

From a self protection standpoint it doesn't get much better than the above. So, if I'm going to buy a vehicle I'd rather have an SUV and, if I'm going to buy one of them I'd opt for the one with OnStar.

Food for thought

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