OnStar review from a CarPC guy.
Recently I baught a 03' chevy Impala, what a nice riding car, as some of you already know most GM vehicles after 2001 are equipped with OnStar. I wanted to give every techie out there a techie's perspective on what I think about the monthly service. Since OnStar is closly related to in vehicle computing and my hobbies of designing in vehicle computing solutions I will give you a brief overview of the hardware/software and paid service.
First I'd like to talk about the hardware. The GPS/Cell antenna is positioned in the top of the rear windsheild, in plain view of the sky. There is a fairly large black box 5,6,9 (W,H,L) in the trunk. Considerbaly larger and more awkwardly fitting than my MII10000 enclosure would be. There is also some hardware inside of the rearview mirror including a microphone and interface buttons. The positioning of this hardware is interesting and useful. Hobbiest system designers with questions on where to put specific hardware can take a hint from the pro's and consider placing devices such as the GPS antenna in the same locations.
Most systems after 2001 come with a hands free phone which can be linked to your Verizon family plan and draw minutes from that. Otherwise you have to by minutes in chunks. I baught 30 minutes for 13.95, you can buy up to 1,000, the minutes last for a year and there is no "monthly plan" like cell phones so no reacurring hands free bills show up. To use the phone you press a button which mute's your cars audio and verbally reviews your options. To anwser you just speak the commands. I was curious as to how good the accuracy is compared to homebrew voice software. It seems like the pro's are also struggling with accuracy because the system got a few of my commands confused. So to say the least its not perfect.
The system's strength is basically in its ability to call a live person almost instantly. The person then acts as your personal assistant and helps you the best they can with limited amount of information. After pressing the button, on average, the wait is less then 15 seconds before your speaking to a live person. The person probably has a software interface that gives them your map location, local emergency numbers ect.
After using the system I can honestly say that I'd rather use my car computer. It's capable of making many of the same smart decesions. On thing I've found also is that lack of privacy with onstar is very aparent. I'd much rather talk to a computer for directions or simple functions than a person. A computer is just a machine so if you make a mistake or say something foolish its not as embarassing.