January 8, 2010

You’ve heard the ads, you may even have had personal experience using one of OnStar's services to get help or open a car door with the key locked inside.

Until now OnStar service has always involved having the driver or the car communicate with OnStar's call center somewhere in Michigan via the cell phone network.

This will be supplemented in a dramatic way when the new Chevrolet Volt plug-in electric car goes on sale later this year.
General Motors has unveiled exciting new ways that OnStar's technology should prove to be far more useful to anyone owning a Volt and using a smart phone like a Blackberry or iPhone.

OnStar Mobile, as it is named, is appropriately being unveiled at the giant Consumer Electronics Trade Show (CES) in Las Vegas that opens Thursday.

OnStar Mobile enables an owner to use their phone to communicate remotely with the Volt to check on numerous functions such as the status of battery charging. It will suggest the best time to charge at off-peak hours. An owner will be able to turn on the car ahead of time to warm it up to extend battery use while driving. It'll provide real time information via text messaging about the amount of fuel used, the miles achieved per gallon or state of the battery charge.

The phone will also be able to take over some of the functions already supplied to OnStar subscribers such as opening a door and remotely blowing the horn.

OnStar Mobile will also provide real time diagnostic data to Chevrolet engineers, and owners will be able to subscribe to a monthly diagnostics report. This service is, of course, already available to OnStar subscribers but OnStar Mobile's report will contain details about the unique characteristics of their Volt.

Although GM did not make any announcements about OnStar Mobile for other GM cars besides the Volt, it would appear there would be nothing to stop this application from being used for regular cars and trucks.

If you already own an iPhone you can try out a demo of the app, to see just what Volt owners will be able to do with their phone, by downloading a demo app on iTunes today. Others can check it out at


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About the Author
John Rettie wrote his first road test in his native England in 1971. As a freelancer, he has traveled the world extensively covering new vehicle introductions, racing and the auto industry. He is a member of the World Car of the Year and the International Car of the Year juries.

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