Its simple three-button interface has not changed since its earliest years, but OnStar is making changes to its services at a pace much like that of consumers upgrading their cell phones—and perhaps even quicker.
Over time, OnStar has added infotainment system aspects including satellite radio, Bluetooth connectivity, turn-by-turn navigation, and Destination Download. These additional features as well as improved voice recognition, Stolen Vehicle Slowdown, tire pressure monitoring, and more are made possible by increasing the computing power to a 32-bit 740-MIPS processor with 1500 times the capability of the initial Gen 1 CPU used back in 1996. At the same time, the cost of the vehicle-installed hardware was reduced to one-sixth the cost of the Gen 1 system (see the table).
OnStar also links to displays and the vehicle’s audio system. For mass-market navigation, OnStar provides turn-by-turn directions from information sent from the service center based on the driver’s request (see the figure).
“We determine where the subscribers want to go and in a packet data session we download a wav file,” says Don Butler, vice president of global expansion for OnStar. “But it is a very sophisticated wav file that then plays, on a maneuver-by-maneuver basis, the instructions for getting to a particular destination.”
Based on the GPS data, the system plays the maneuver required by the driver and provides visual indicators depending on the display system in the vehicle. The approach is an easy way of getting navigation directions that can be obtained while the vehicle is moving.