Ten telematics systems connect your car to the cloud
From OnStar to BlueLink, with all of the connectivity platforms in between: these automotive telematics platforms keep you connected to your car, even when you're not behind the wheel.
Apps supported: Honda and Acura's connected dashboard so far supports only Pandora and Aha by Harman via an app installed on your smartphone, but Aha is a bit of a magic bullet, rolling in over 40,000 streaming audio and Internet radio stations, including channels dedicated to your Facebook and Twitter feeds.
Connected services: Certain Acura vehicles have the option to add AcuraLink Connect and the host vehicle gains a cellular modem, enabling remote lock and unlock, alarm enable and disable, emergency services, automatic collision response, and stolen vehicle recovery.
On vehicles equipped with navigation, HondaLink Connect also enables drivers to sync favorite destinations to the cloud. At the top tier, AcuraLink Connect Premium adds a concierge service that grants access to a live operator who can search for destinations, make hotel, restaurant, or airline reservations and send directions directly to the vehicle’s navigation system.
Pricing: Free for three years. Pricing thereafter has not been announced.
Audi Connect uses a 3G modem embedded in the vehicle and a T-Mobile data connection to deliver Web-connected Google Voice Local Search for destinations, Google Earth satellite overlay, myAudi Web sync of destinations, and Wi-Fi hotspot connectivity for up to eight passenger devices.
Pricing: Unlimited T-Mobile data will run you $30 at the month-to-month rate or $450 for 2.5 years (which works out to about $15 per month for 30 months).
Apps supported: If you're an iPhone user, the BMW Apps option will enable the driver to control Pandora, Stitcher, and more apps from the dashboard, as well as access social and messaging services via the BMW Connected app.
Connected services: The BMW Assist Safety Plan is your standard fair telematics package with automatic collision notification, emergency roadside assistance, stolen vehicle recovery, remote door unlock, and so forth.
Stepping up to the Convenience plan adds live concierge services, weather, fuel price, stocks, and traffic info, and Web-connected Google Local Search. There's also an neat feature called "Critical Calling" that lets you make a 5-minute, operator-assisted emergency call if your phone dies.
Pricing: The Safety plan is free for four years and $199 per year thereafter. Adding the Convenience plan is an additional $199 per year. BMW Apps is an additional $250 hardware option that is also available on Mini vehicles under the name Mini Connected.
Apps supported: None, although Buick IntelliLink, Chevrolet MyLink, and Cadillac Cue support Pandora and Stitcher in the dashboard.
Connected services: OnStar's Safe & Sound is the granddaddy of telematics systems, offering automatic crash response and emergency services, hands-free calling, access to the RemoteLink Mobile app, stolen vehicle assistance, roadside assistance, and vehicle diagnostics. Step up to Directions & Connections to add OnStar turn-by-turn navigation with live concierge destination search.
When the service is connected to a Chevrolet Volt, the OnStar RemoteLink service and app gains the additional ability to monitor the charging, battery, fuel efficiency, and range of the plug-in hybrid.
Pricing: Safe & Sound is $18.95 month-to-month or $199.00 per year. Directions & Connections is 28.90 per month or $299.00 per year. At both tiers there are discounts available for multiyear commitments.
Apps supported: Chrysler's Uconnect has gone through many iterations, which makes it a bit confusing to understand. In its current incarnation, supported apps include Pandora, iHeartRadio, Slacker, Aha by Harman, and Bing. The next generation, due later this year, will swap Bing search for Yelp.
Connected services: Uconnect Access also includes a telematics suite that's enabled, thanks to an onboard wireless modem. Services include emergency roadside assistance, 911 crash response, theft alarm notification and stolen vehicle recovery, remote door unlock and engine start, and voice texting. Users can also transform the Uconnect dashboard into a 3G hotspot for an additional fee.
Pricing: Uconnect Access enabled vehicles come with a 6- to 12-month free trial. Post-trial pricing will be announced later this year. Unlocking the 3G Wi-Fi hotspot function costs either $9.99 per day, $19.99 per week, or $34.99 per month.
Connected services: Hyundai's telematics offerings largely mirror OnStar, but with three tiers. Assurance is the most basic with just emergency SOS services and some remote diagnostics.
Next, Essentials adds remote door lock and unlock, remote vehicle starting, and stolen vehicle recovery that we've come to expect. It also has some interesting parental features such as curfew alert, geofencing, and speed alert.
Finally, Guidance adds turn-by-turn navigation, Web-connected destination search with restaurant ratings, cloud favorites syncing, and live data for traffic, weather, and fuel prices.
Pricing: BlueLink Assurance is free for three years and $79 per year thereafter. Essentials and Guidance are free for the first three months and stack on additional $99 each per year thereafter. Discounts are available for multiyear commitments.
Connected services: Infiniti Connection features telematics favorites such as automatic crash notification, enhanced roadside assistance, stolen vehicle reporting, remote door lock and unlock, and more.
A premium tier caled Connection Plus adds Infiniti Personal Assistant live destination search with a send-to-vehicle function for the navigation system, Drive Zone geofencing, and excessive speed alert.
Pricing: Infiniti Connection runs $179 per year. Connection Plus is an additional $129 per year.
Both levels of service are free for the first year of ownership of a new vehicle and, currently, only the 2013 JX and M56 are compatible.
Apps supported: This two-part telematics system supports Bing, iHeartRadio, MovieTickets.com, OpenTable, Pandora, Yelp, Facebook Places, and Toyota/Lexus' own dealer locator and roadside assistance apps. The apps system hosts the apps on the infotainment system itself, but connects to the Web via an Entune or Enform app installed on your smartphone.
Connected services: Safety Connect is Toyota/Lexus' traditional telematics system that uses an in-vehicle data connection. This system adds emergency assistance, stolen vehicle locator, roadside assistance, and automatic collision notification.
Pricing: Toyota and Lexus oddly charge for their app integration after a free trial (three years free for Toyota and one year for Lexus), so you'll have to pay $5 or $7 per month, respectively, to use the data connection that you're already paying for on your phone. From here, you can choose to pay a bit more for traffic, weather, and similar data (or opt to have that data come through your satellite radio service).
Finally, stepping up to Safety Connect telematics is an additional $139.95 per year for both Toyota and Lexus owners, after a complimentary first year of free service.
Apps supported: I'm not a fan of the sluggish manner in which the automaker does it, but the Mbrace system supports Facebook, Yelp, and Google Maps Street View and Local Search in the dashboard. The next generation will support Google+ and Google Places, as well as switch to a more responsive iPhone-based system.
Connected services: Mercedes-Benz Mbrace can be split into three parts. The core Mbrace system features emergency services, accident alerts, stolen vehicle tracking and recovery, and remote access functions. Stepping up to Mbrace Plus nets you concierge services, excessive speed alerts and geofences, and traffic and weather data over the Mbrace data connection. Finally, Mercedes-Benz Apps adds the aforementioned dashboard apps for search and social.
Pricing: Mbrace will set you back $280 per year after a six-month trial. Plus is $20 more per month; Apps are an additional $14 per month; or pay $28 per month for both after a three-month trial of both services.
Interestingly, Mercedes-Benz will even throw in a three-month trial on all three Mbrace tiers, even on certified pre-owned vehicles.
Apps supported: Right now, Pandora Internet radio is the only app supported.
Connected services: So far, the 2013 Nissan Altima is the only vehicle that supports Nissan's new connected dashboard and it doesn't seem to offer many connected services aside from Google Local search for destinations.
Pricing: NissanConnect is free for compatible Navigation-equipped vehicles for three years. Pricing thereafter has not been announced. A Vehicle Tracking and Recovery System (or VTRS) can be added as a dealer-installed option and costs $249 per year to monitor the GPS position of your Nissan.