Saturday, April 28, 2007

MapQuest, OnStar team up on maps

Wednesday, April 25, 2007
MapQuest, OnStar team up on maps
Jeff Karoub / Associated Press

DETROIT -- General Motors Corp.'s OnStar service is working with MapQuest to let drivers link their desktop with the blacktop.

The automaker and the online mapping service of AOL LLC said the expansion of OnStar's in-vehicle navigation system is designed to let its subscribers plan their driving route at and send information on their destination directly to their cars.

OnStar Web Destination Entry being announced today will be launched in a pilot program this summer with a random sample of 3,000 customers. It's expected to be available by the end of the year on more than 2 million GM vehicles with OnStar's Turn-by-Turn Navigation capability.

The navigation system was introduced last year as part of the decade-old OnStar system, which offers driving directions, roadside assistance and other services through about 2,000 advisers at three North American call centers. The system also alerts emergency rescue officials when an air bag deploys or the vehicle is involved in a crash.

Web Destination Entry will allow customers to log onto MapQuest and create up to five destinations, which are then stored on secure OnStar servers. The driver can send them to and access them through the vehicle's OnStar system, which calculates the route and provides voice-guided, step-by-step directions from the vehicle's location.

Although drivers can already get the directions by calling an OnStar operator, OnStar and MapQuest officials said Web Destination Entry adds convenience.

"If you think about Web destination planning end to end today, you've kind of got a static origin and static destination," said OnStar President Chet Huber. "This literally allows the origin to be serendipitously determined at whatever point you want to start that trip."

Jim Greiner, MapQuest's senior vice president and general manager, said the move is responding to customer demand. "Our mission, our vision in life, is to help people find places, whenever and wherever they need to be. We think this partnership is one step, one giant step toward ... fulfilling our vision."

The companies did not disclose financial details.

By teaming with MapQuest, the GM subsidiary is making a "leadership move" in the North American market, although it won't be alone for long, said Phil Magney, principal analyst with Telematics Research Group.

BMW AG recently announced a tie-up with Google Maps. The German automaker said it is launching the service first in Germany, but plans to spread to all markets that employ its telematic system known as Assist.

Ford Motor Co. also has announced a deal with Microsoft Corp. to develop the wireless Sync system. While Sync differs from OnStar in that it links cars with cell phones and personal music players, Ford has said it someday could include laptop computer links, vehicle diagnostics and other services.

Even with the financial struggles facing the domestic automakers, Magney said they can't afford to ignore developing in-vehicle technology and communications systems. Services such as OnStar provide automakers recurring revenue through subscriptions, enhance the technological value of the car and serve as an important tool for enhancing the relationship with customers, he said.

"(They all) realize that long-term, the automaker has to have a wireless connection to the vehicle," he said.

OnStar is standard on more than two-thirds of 2007 model year GM vehicles and will be included on nearly all 2008 vehicles. As an option, it costs $695, which includes the hardware and first year's subscription fee.

© Copyright 2007 The Detroit News. All rights reserved.


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