Vauxhall brings OnStar services to Europe

  • System uses GPS and 4G connection to offer a host of concierge services
  • Can find a hotel and programme it into your sat-nav, or call 999 after a crash
  • Standard in many cars, £395 option in others, plus £79 a year subscription

A little bit Jeeves and a little bit International Rescue, we’ve been trying out Vauxhall’s new connected service technology OnStar.

The system is capable of finding a coffee shop and programming it into your satnav, remotely diagnosing vehicle faults, and even automatically dispatching the emergency services to your exact location in the event of a crash.

Satnav instructions can be send over the air

On top of this, an OnStar equipped vehicle also works as a WiFi hotspot for up to seven devices, meaning your passengers can play games or stream video using the car’s internet connection.

OnStar remains connected even when your phone is not

The heart of the system is the high-speed 4G connection. OnStar says this uses a large antenna so is able to find signal in areas where mobile phones might not.

Press the call button in the car’s headliner and you are connected to an advisor who can remotely programme a destination into the car’s satnav, dispatch roadside assistance if you have a flat tyre, or diagnose a fault warning light.

Host of services available at the press of a button

There is also an SOS button which prioritises your call to the OnStar centre, so if you are ill or witness an accident, help can be sent to your location using the car’s GPS.

Crash sensors in the car will automatically contact an advisor who can see how badly the car is damaged and whether any airbags have been deployed before calling the emergency services and guiding them to your location.

If your car is stolen OnStar can help find it using GPS and even disable the ignition once the engine has been switched off to ensure it can’t be restarted.

European nerve centre based in Luton

We visited the new OnStar Contact and Command Centre in Luton where advisors will handle calls in multiple languages from 13 countries across Europe, 24 hours a day and seven days a week.

Because the system knows what language you speak, you will be automatically connected to an advisor who speaks the same, no matter where in Europe you are driving.

Call handlers speak multiple=

Although the service is not live yet, we were given a chance to test it by pressing the call button in an OnStar-equipped Insignia, and asked for directions to a hotel in Woburn. The advisor found the hotel for us and programmed it remotely into the car’s satnav.

On the way back we had a problem connecting to the WiFi hotspot, but after a quick call to OnStar this was fixed remotely and we were able to use it.

As well as the buttons in the car, you can also use services with a smartphone app. Although we didn’t see this in action, OnStar say customers will be able to lock or unlock their car, honk the horn to help find it in a car park, or call up diagnostic data like oil levels and tyre pressure.

How much does it cost?

The cost for the system is broken down into the price of the equipment and then a yearly subscription. OnStar will be a £395 option in cars where it is not fitted as standard, which Vauxhall says will be 50 percent of its range.

For the first year there is no charge and then after that you will pay £79 plus a further cost for the data plan to enable the use of the WiFi hotspot. The cost of this has not been released yet but other than a standard fair use policy, there is no cap on how much data you use.

The first Vauxhall car we will see with OnStar will be new Astra which is due to be released in October.

OnStar, coming to a Vauxhall near you