OnStar: Providing Your Family Peace of Mind


Sanober Bukhuari, Parenting Writer

In my last article Why Parents Need to Have “The Talk” with their Young Drivers I shared my learnings on driver safety at a media event hosted by General Motors to bring awareness to drivers, in particular teenagers on how to avoid crashes but most importantly what to do in the ‘Before, During and After’ experience of a collision.

It is incredible the kind of technology that is already in place to help avoid crashes. However, sometimes despite your best efforts a collision is unavoidable. In that frightful scenario then, how can you still make sure you and your loved ones are protected?

In the heart of downtown Detroit, securely nestled inside GM Headquarters, I was privileged to visit the OnStar Command Centre. It was equivalent in austerity as NASA’s command centre; multiple screens showed satellite tracking of calls coming in from all over Canada and the United States; live news flashed security alerts on another screen, which at that moment were relaying information on Ottawa and the attack on Parliament.

We met with Catherine Bishop, Global Emergency Services Outreach and Strategy Manager for OnStar who showed us an engaging video and explained the system.

What is OnStar?  Onstar

Introduced in 1996, it is a subscription based GPS emergency response system built into most GM vehicles. It has a 3-button assembly; the white button to make hands free calls; the blue button to speak to an OnStar advisor live 24/7, ask for turn-by-turn directions or a point of interest, or request an on-demand vehicle diagnostics check; the red button to connect to trained emergency advisors, request police, fire or medical help, report an accident or request for help for someone else on the road.

How does it work?

Using a wireless provider it connects you to the OnStar call centre, to a live advisor trained with the same skill set required to handle emergency calls as a 911 call centre, i.e. trained for Emergency Medical Dispatch. For example if you are driving with your young child and you suddenly feel unwell all you have to do is press the red button and the reassuring voice of an advisor will immediately be able to get you the help you need. If you are lost all you need to do is press the blue button to get exact directions.


Most importantly if you were in a collision of any kind, the built in system has an automatic crash response, where the vehicle delivers information on the type of crash and severity prediction to the OnStar centre advisor who will call for relevant help immediately, pin pointing where the crash occurred. The advisor will be able to tell if it was an auto generated call, whether anyone was thrown from the vehicle, if there is fuel leakage or if a helicopter needs to be sent.

Even from outside of your vehicle you can call or use the OnStar mobile app to report if your car was stolen, if you need your car remotely unlocked or want to sound the horn and flash its lights in case you can’t find your car! The latter of which would have saved my mum and I many hours over the years when I was a child, helping her search for where she had parked the car. “Beti, yaad hai hum P1 mein thaiy ya P2?” (Sweetheart, do you remember if we parked in P1 or P2?)

Some more amazing features include being able to slow down the vehicle if it has been stolen or if say an Alzheimer patient is driving and is momentarily displaced. This would be greatly reassuring for all those times Dada ji (grandfather) insists on driving off without telling anyone convinced his memory and vision is still perfect.

Why Get OnStar? onstar-broadcast_BUICK

There are 2500 OnStar live advisors dedicated to you and your family’s safety. They want to help you avoid collisions, and if that is not possible they will go above and beyond in providing you with all the assistance they can. They will stay with you throughout the course of the accident, whether you are conscious or not, until help has arrived and you are out of the vehicle and hopefully out of any danger.

They are your angels, and who couldn’t benefit from that?

To find out more about OnStar visit www.onstar.com

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