OnStar’s new smartphone app can detect car crashes, get help

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OnStar is going mobile with a new smartphone app.
Image: OnStar

General Motors’ OnStar is a safety feature commonly found in the company’s modern vehicles. It’s about to get a little more useful for those who subscribe to the service. OnStar announced on Wednesday that it plans to roll out OnStar Guardian, a smartphone app that lets subscribers take the service’s many features with them wherever they go.

The blue button that drivers turn to when they need help the most is going mobile. Moreover, Guardian doesn’t just apply to those who are physically inside the car. The new app can be used to get help whether you’re driving, biking, at home, or out for a walk.

Safety Gets Smarter

Disaster can strike at any time. OnStar has saved countless lives by quickly connecting people in need with operators and emergency services. To this point, however, the service has been limited to vehicles.

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OnStar customers can traditionally connect to an operator by pressing a button on their rearview mirror or infotainment screen. Now, they’ll be able to do so wherever they have their smartphone.

“We’ve got over 20 years of experience dealing with public safety, and we’ve been looking at ways that we can extend that promise beyond our existing member base,” says Jeffrey Haase, head of the OnStar Guardian project. “So this is a unique opportunity for us to deliver the promise of OnStar to friends and family that might not be driving a GM product but clearly have a relationship with that person that owns a car.”

Notably, OnStar customers will be able to share the service with up to seven family members and friends for a limited time.

The Guardian app has four functions—Mobile Crash Response, Roadside Assistance, Emergency Services, and Location Status.

When a smartphone detects a crash, even in a vehicle not natively equipped with OnStar, it can automatically connect to an OnStar operator. For those with a non-Android phone, the app will automatically alert OnStar and tell an operator to contact emergency services.

An Emergency button in the app manually connects users to one of OnStar’s trained advisors who are available 24/7. They can “assess a situation, contact 911 as needed, provide critical medical instruction and stay on the line until help arrives,” says GM.

Handy Mobile Features

Perhaps the most noteworthy feature of the new Guardian app is its location function. It works similarly to Apple’s Find My Friends tool. OnStar customers will be able to track the location of approved users via live GPS sharing.

GM says that this feature could prove useful in many situations. It specifically mentions “walks home after dark, time spent in a rideshare or rented vehicle, or when a teenage child is riding in a friend’s car.”

Of course, it also opens the door for privacy concerns about someone tracking your location in real-time. Nonetheless, it could be a helpful feature for family and friends who don’t mind keeping tabs on each other without having to make a phone call or send a text.

OnStar offers its “Safety and Security plan” to customers in the U.S. for $24.99 a month.

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