By Fahmida Rashid
OnStar is due for a feature upgrade to match services offered by rival Ford’s Sync music and information system. According to Bloomberg, General Motors will be adding free services hooking into Facebook to its OnStar subscription service later this month. The service currently provides accident alerts, directions, vehicle diagnostics and roadside assistance in case of an emergency.
With the upgrade, OnStar will enable the always-cool voice-to-text feature. Subscribers will be able to use voice commands to update their Facebook status and the system will read back their most recent “news feed” messages.
That is just the beginning of the voice-to-text possibilities. OnStar is testing technology that reads text messages to users and allows users to reply using preset responses.
It’s just in time for General Motors, playing catchup to Ford. Sync has had entertainment features for a while now, and Ford announced Sync upgrades for January that will include social networking, Web browsing, and iPod-style thumb controls.
Auto site Jalopnik speculated mobile app Trapster will also be included, based on the company’s past statements. Trapster lets users give fellow drivers a heads up about speed trap locations, keep track of cars traveling together in a convoy, and get real-time information about traffic jams, road closures and construction.
Bloomberg also reported OnStar may begin offering entertainment and information services that link to a user’s smartphone without a subscription or fee. OnStar currently has smartphone applications that allow drivers to monitor gas or battery-charge levels and control the vehicle’s locks and horn.
Currently available on more than 30 vehicles, General Motors will include OnStar on over 40 cars in its 2011 lineup. Free for the first year on some models, plan prices range from $199 to $299 a year.