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Holden has another try at assistance tech

Security: GM’s OnStar has been around in North America since 1996, although it has been upgraded and enhanced since then.

OnStar to be introduced by Holden in 2019, years after Holden Assist came and went

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Holden logo6 Oct 2017

By RON HAMMERTON

HOLDEN has gone back to the future by foreshadowing the introduction of General Motors’ connected OnStar service on its range of vehicles in Australia in 2019, almost two decades after it introduced a similar, if more basic, service on selected Holden and Holden Special Vehicles (HSV) models under the Holden Assist banner.

Using global positioning system (GPS) and a mobile phone connection, OnStar will offer emergency, security, navigation, connections and vehicle manager services by subscription, initially on the new Equinox medium SUV and then across the range.

Back in 2001, owners of Holden VY Calais, Caprice and HSV models could tick the box for an OnStar-based Holden Assist service offering most of these core emergency and security features at $1990 for a three-year subscription.

Famously, a Holden Assist-equipped Calais stolen from Melbourne’s Crown Casino forecourt was tracked by Holden Assist operators using GPS location and an on-board mobile phone connection until Victoria Police patrol cars closed in on the vehicle near the Rod Laver Arena.

At that point, the Holden Assist operators cut the Calais’ ignition by remote connection, stopping the car in the middle of the road as police officers swooped to drag the confused culprit from the vehicle and handcuff him face-down on the bitumen.

On another occasion, West Australian police in a Caprice borrowed for an undercover operation brought Holden Assist into play when the officers accidentally ran over a concrete kerb, setting off the frontal airbags and automatically alerting the Holden Assist centre whose operators came over the speakers in the car, asking if they needed emergency services.

While Holden later stopped offering the service due to lukewarm take-up, it has now announced that it will introduce the full, American-style OnStar service in 2019 to “revolutionise the customer experience”.

OnStar adds a number of additional features over Holden Assist, including items such as a Wi-Fi hotspot, theft alarm notification, “family link”, remote access and location manager.

While the control room for Holden Assist was run by the roadside assistance operators for Australian motoring clubs such as the RACV, NRMA and RACQ, Holden is set to establish its own OnStar operations centre that will become the Asia Pacific OnStar hub.

Former Holden sales director Peter Keley will head up the operation as managing director of OnStar General Motors International.

“While OnStar uses very powerful and advanced technologies to deliver its services in the car and via the web and smart devices, it is simple and easy for the customer to use," Mr Keley said.

“OnStar’s human touch is what makes it unique and differentiates it from other telematics services in the market.

“And the above is just the beginning. Once we connect you to your car remotely the possibilities to create experiences that make your drive more enjoyable and the way that we can enhance the usage of your time are endless.

“This is an important step as we will continue to grow GM’s connected vehicle solutions in this region of the world in the coming years.”

The new version will provide real-time health checks of the vehicle and allow drivers to use their mobile phone to monitor and track the health and service requirements of their vehicles via the MyHolden app.

Vehicles can be unlocked or locked from anywhere in the world, while owners can use their phone to locate their car by activating the vehicle horn and hazard flashers.

OnStar has been offered in North America since 1996, although it has been updated and enhanced with new features over the years.

GM says almost 13 million “members” have signed on for OnStar in the US, Canada, China, Mexico, Europe and South America.

Holden is yet to announce a fee structure for the OnStar service, saying only that it will be available through a subscription model and that further details will be announced closer to launch.

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