On Star Corporation is a subsidiary of General Motors that provides subscription-based communications, in-vehicle security, hands free calling, turn-by-turn navigation, and remote diagnostics systems throughout the United States, Canada and China. A similar service is known as Chevy Star in Latin American markets. In September 2011 the president of On Star stated that the service had more than six million customers.
The On Star service allows users to contact On Star call centers during an emergency. In the event of a collision, detected by airbag deployment or other sensors, Advanced Automatic Collision Notification features can automatically send information about the vehicle's condition and GPS location to On Star call centers.
All On Star equipped vehicles have stolen vehicles tracking, which can provide the police with the vehicle’s exact location, speed and direction of movement. Starting in the 2009 model year, General Motors began equipping some new vehicles with Stolen Vehicle Slowdown. This feature allows On Star to remotely slow down the stolen vehicle. The service is also expected to help reduce the risk of property damage, serious injuries or fatalities resulting from high-speed pursuits of stolen vehicles.
On Star was formed in 1995 as collaboration between GM, Electronic Data Systems and Hughes Electronics Corporation. Each of the founding companies brought a specific area of expertise to the enterprise: GM brought vehicle design and integration and a distribution system of millions of vehicles, EDS brought much of the systems development and information management and customer service technologies, while Hughes contributed communications and satellite technology and automotive electronics.
In April 2006, GM notified approximately 500,000 of their On Star customers who had analog service that their service would be terminated effective December 31, 2007, because starting February 18, 2008 the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) would no longer require US cell phone systems to operate in analog mode.
On Star advocates tout it as an essential safety tool. GM commercials have compared it to seatbelts and airbags, as the next major technology for safe driving. The benefits, they say, include its ability to aid police in tracking down stolen vehicles; contacting emergency medical services in case of an accident.
It is theoretically possible for On Star to be remotely activated by malicious third parties or under government order. This would enable third parties to track the location of the car, along with the ability to listen to the contents of any conversations carried on by the occupants within the car without their consent. However the FBI has been denied the ability to use this as it disables On Star's safety features as determined by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
In 2011, On Star did announce that it would start retaining all the information collected by the GPS and internal system, so that it could be sold to third parties.
On Star's basic subscription also includes Roadside assistance, as well HFC (Hands Free Calling) which is integrated into the On Star system and operates in the same way as a regular cell phone does except that it is operated through voice recognition.