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CES 2012: OnStar invites outside developers, shows new features

Consumer Reports News: January 10, 2012 04:23 PM

OnStar held a CES press conference to make a number of announcements, and to give a preview of some additional features and services the telematics provider might offer in the future.

First up, OnStar plans to offer selected developers the opportunity to contribute apps to their telematics system by granting access to their closed proprietary application program (API), something Ford has done with SYNC but OnStar has avoided until now. The company says research indicates the number of smart phone mobile apps is expected double in the next 12 months, and that by opening their platform to developers, they will be able to offer a broader package of the emergency, security, and navigation features their users value most.

Their first partner is RelayRides, a car-sharing app that will allow owners to rent out their cars when they’re not using them, while controlling rates and availability. OnStar plans to make its API available in the first half of 2012, and suggests that interested developers should contact OnStar at

In partnership with Verizon, OnStar also rolled out a two Chevrolet Volt connected vehicle prototypes at CES, intended to demonstrate what services could be brought into the car through a 4G LTE connection. A regular smorgasbord of distracting possibilities were displayed, including streaming entertainment content, sharing content between user devices within the vehicle, and video chat using Skype. Thankfully, OnStar says some features including Skype would be available only to rear seat passengers.

In addition, the demonstration vehicles included potential enhancements to OnStar’s remote link app, which currently allows Volt owners to monitor a variety of functions from their phone, including charge status, remaining range, and vehicle diagnostics. At CES, OnStar showed a home energy management feature that would allow users to control their home thermostat, lights, garage door and other features from their car.

OnStar was the first to bring telematics services to consumers in the car, but has faced increased competition in recent years. A company representative said that by opening their platform to outside developers and offering new services, OnStar hopes to remain competitive in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

Jim Travers


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