OnStar emergencies

Thursday, February 26th 2004, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

This week, the News on 6 met a woman who pressed the OnStar button at a Chevy dealership in Claremore and won a new car.

News on 6 reporter Rick Wells was curious if OnStar really is valuable in an emergency. "They shut it smooth down." Keith Haney is the general manager at Suburban Chevrolet in Claremore; he's talking about how OnStar helped him recover a stolen vehicle.

Rick Wells: "So they not only told you where the car was, they shut it down so the guy couldn't operate it." Haney: "That's correct." They do that using Global Positioning satellite technology.

Here's how it works, the satellite gets a signal from the OnStar unit in the car and id's the location. Either an airbag deployment or button pressing signals the national cellular network. OnStar gets the location and call information and connects with the OnStar operator, all that happens in a few seconds.

It works much the same way EMSA uses GPS technology to locate each of it's in service ambulances. It helps them know which one is closest to an emergency. Occasionally, EMSA gets calls from an OnStar operator. EMSA supervisor Bryon Schultz: "There was a few weeks ago, we already had the call from a bystander, but OnStar called and said they had an airbag deployment." And the address they gave him was exactly where the accident was.

There are three OnStar call centers, one in North Carolina, one in Michigan and one near Toronto. Most calls are non emergencies; unlock requests, roadside assistance calls.

Haney: "If you got lost somewhere they can tell you where you are and where you need to turn what directions you need to go.” And in a real emergency it could be a lifesaver. Schultz: "If it's in the middle of the night on a road with not much traffic and OnStar gets a signal for an airbag deployment or an accident, yea it could be lifesaving."

54 GM models come equipped with OnStar, and usually the first year's service is included in the purchase price. The renewal rate is about $100 a year.