OnStar may have the strongest advertising presence of any car security solution on the market. GM has successfully telegraphed the unique benefits of OnStar in its commercial campaigns: Much like the advertisements for Broadview Home Security, which feature its operators standing by to assist homeowners who've been burglarized, OnStar ads commonly depict helpful operators contacting drivers after an accident. But how does OnStar work, exactly?
OnStar systems operate over a digital cellular network in the United States, and its customers can contact the service 24 hours a day with the push of a button in their cars. Lost on some country back road? Connect with an advisor, and he or she will give you turn-by-turn directions to get you home. That's one element of OnStar's "three-button system" for communication. With an accompanying plan or pre-paid package of minutes, OnStar also provides hands-free calling with the push of the second button. The third button places an emergency call directly to an OnStar "Advisor."
In a real emergency, such as a car crash, air bag sensors or other sensors built into an OnStar-equipped vehicle can automatically alert an operator to the condition and location of a vehicle, which OnStar then uses to direct emergency responders. But that's an awful lot about emergencies; when it comes to plain old security, OnStar's pretty impressive, too. OnStar can unlock your car if you lose your keys or honk your horn if you're lost in the vast sea of a parking deck; the system tracks stolen cars via GPS, and operators can block the ignition of newer models and remotely slow them down during high-speed chases.
OnStar is far more than just a security system -- it's more of a comprehensive service system, and its mobile apps for iPhone and Android make features like remote door unlocking even easier. Comprehensive comes with a cost, of course -- in OnStar's case, that means $199 a year for a basic "Safe & Sound" plan or $299 a year for the "Directions & Connections" plan, which adds in turn-by-turn navigation.