GM's OnStar: There's an app for that

by Peter Valdes-Dapena, senior writer


NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- General Motors will distribute OnStar smartphone applications later this year that will allow Chevrolet, GMC, Buick and Cadillac owners to do things like lock their car doors or start the engine from miles away.

The OnStar mobile application will also let users get information about their vehicles, such its fuel level, available driving range, oil level, tire pressure and other diagnostic information. It will be available on Apple's (AAPL, Fortune 500) iPhone as well as on some Android handsets.

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"This technology empowers drivers to make decisions about their travels well before they enter the vehicle, meaning their full attention can stay where it needs to be - on the road ahead," said Chris Preuss, president of GM's OnStar subsidiary, said in an announcement.

GM gave the example of someone at the airport who is plagued by doubts about whether he remembered to lock the car. Or someone attending a baseball game on a hot day who wants to start her car so that it will be cooled by the time she's ready to leave.

Currently, even in vehicles equipped with remote start, the owner must be at least within sight of the vehicle to start the car. (Vehicles equipped with OnStar can also be unlocked remotely, but the owner has to call an OnStar operator and request it.)

Other OnStar phone features, some specifically tailored to each car brand, will be announced in the next few months as marketing for the technology begins, GM said.

The phone application will also include a button that will automatically dial an OnStar operator for anything that can't be done by the mobile app, such as requesting emergency assistance.

As it currently exists, OnStar is available on nearly all Chevrolet, GMC, Buick and Cadillac cars. The service allows drivers to connect with a live OnStar operator by simply pressing a blue button inside the car. It also automatically summons help in the event of a crash, and sends regular emails with vehicle diagnostic information.

OnStar currently offers its services free for one year on most GM models, and then at subscription price of about $20 to $30 a month, depending on the level of service.

The mobile application will be included in the OnStar subscription price, which is not expected to change, an OnStar spokesman said. To top of page

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