General Motors unveiled a few enhancements to its in-car assistance program OnStar on Sunday that could save customers money -- and maybe even prevent them from getting stranded somewhere.
Among the new features unveiled at the International CES in Las Vegas is a so-called "prognostic" extension to OnStar, giving it something of a crystal ball when it comes to potential maintenance concerns. OnStar can currently send notifications to users for basic issues, such as loss of tire pressure or past-due engine oil changes. Starting in the 2016 model year, OnStar will be able to monitor even more.
Initially, the system will be able to monitor and report on the health of the car's battery, its starter motor and its fuel system. If low voltage from the battery is detected, for example, or excessive draw from the starter, the OnStar service can notify the car's owner that they should consider replacing the soon-to-be faulty parts -- long before they get stranded in a cold parking lot somewhere.
Also coming are some enhancements to the commerce side of things. Starting next year, subscribers will be able to book hotels on Priceline.com, with an OnStar adviser handling the heavy lifting. Later, a program called AtYourService will launch, connecting drivers to various sorts of businesses. You'll be able to directly purchase titles through Audiobooks.com, for example, or get coupons and offers from RetailMeNot delivered right to the dashboard. Dunkin' Donuts is also said to be onboard, offering directions and incentives for drivers to stop and get a hot cup of Joe.
If the idea of coupons flashing up based on where you drive is a little disconcerting, you're probably not going to like the sound of the third and final OnStar enhancement. A new driver monitoring application will be able to track the habits and basically give you a rating and some guidance on how to improve your safety.
Score well and you can forward that result on to Progressive Insurance, potentially making you eligible for insurance discounts. Yes, that's similar to the sort of functionality you'd get though Progressive's current Snapshot device, just built into the car.
Don't worry, though, as this will be completely optional when it starts getting phased in to cars this year, so if you don't want Big Brother watching you can, at least, hand him a blindfold.
Again, many of these programs are set to begin roll-out in 2015, while all should be in place in time for 2016 model year cars from GM.