Though I am a reasonably good driver, I'm a little bit "car nervous." I get lost a lot. I have a hard time following written directions (or the map on my iPhone) and driving at the same time. I recently got my first flat tire and I completely flipped out. I have a tendency to lock my keys in the car and leave my lights on. (OnStar FMV cannot unlock the doors like the embedded system, but can send roadside assistance/locksmith.) Forget about talking on the phone and driving--I won't even answer an incoming call, much less make one when I'm behind the wheel (Oprah would be so proud!). These things have always just been the kind of little annoyances that are part of being who I am. It never occurred to me that there was something I could do to address them. Then BlogHer asked me to review the OnStar FMV Mirror, and everything changed.

For those not familiar with it, the OnStar FMV Mirror is an after-market add-on, comprised of a rearview mirror and a small microphone, which allows vehicles not built with OnStar service to access some of the same services factory-equipped OnStar cars have. Currently, at Best Buy, the system costs about $375, with basic installation included, and the service is either $18.95/month (for just the emergency and security features) or $28.90/month (for everything). (Retail price for the system is $299, with installation in the $75-$100 range, depending on installer/store.)

OnStar-Retail-Mirror.jpg

After receiving my OnStar package in the mail, my first step was to get it installed. OnStar recommends using a professional installer. I went to AV Sound Design in Herndon, VA. The folks there were great and my installation took only a couple of hours and presented no problems. When I picked my car up, my original mirror had been replaced with the OnStar mirror, which is similar in shape and size and doesn't pose any visibility issues. A small microphone was also installed just above the windshield--it's so subtle I didn't even notice it right away.

After my mirror was installed, I pushed the blue OnStar button to call the service center and get it all set-up and registered. During this call and every other call I've made to the service center, the OnStar advisor to whom I spoke was pleasant, friendly, and competent. Setting my account up was easy and within a few minutes I was ready to use my system.

Luckily, I haven't had a need to test the system's emergency service or accident response capacities. However, I have been through the other things it can do. It has provided me excellent turn-by-turn directions and I've set up the Bluetooth connection with my phone so that I can make and answer calls while I'm driving. Both work very well. I particularly love that when I need directions, I can call an advisor to find them for me, rather than just asking a machine--this way, when there are two locations with the same name, or something doesn't seem quite right, the advisor can sort out the issue before sending the directions to my system. It's the perfect combination of human and non-human interaction.

I expected to enjoy the Bluetooth and turn-by-turn directions features of my OnStar system, and I do. What surprises me, however, is how much I am also starting to depend on the access to an OnStar advisor I have at the touch of a button. It is much like being at a hotel with a great concierge--the advisors are helpful, polite, and accessible. If I'm in a new part of town and can't find a coffee shop, or see a construction issue and am not sure how to get around it, the advisor can help me and seems happy to do so. I was afraid, before I got the system, that calling in to it would be much like calling "customer service" at most companies--I'd likely be met with someone who was either rude or simply unprepared to do what I needed. Nothing could be farther from the truth. However OnStar is training their service advisors, they've got the right idea.

The best reason for the system, though, is the one I haven't had to use and hopefully won't. In an emergency situation, the system can alert an OnStar Advisor who is immediately connected into your vehicle to see if you need help. The Advisor can use GPS technology to pinpoint your vehicle and contact the right emergency service provider. That's great for peace of mind. I have a family member who spends the majority of her work time on the road, driving between several locations of her company over several hundred miles. I'd love it if she would get an OnStar FMV--not only would it replace the GPS and Bluetooth devices she now uses with one mirror, but it would provide an extra level of security for her when she's on the road. Were it within my budget, I'd also get an OnStar FMV for each of my friends with small children--both because the Bluetooth and navigation capacities would help to reduce their distractions while in the car and because I'd love for them to have access to the emergency response services.

I absolutely plan to remain an OnStar subscriber after the trial period I was gifted for this review has ended. It's not an overstatement to say that the OnStar FMV has changed the way I drive. For my fellow nervous drivers, I definitely recommend it.

To learn more about the OnStar FMV mirror, visit the Facebook page and/or visit your local Best Buy store.

To read other BlogHer reviewers' thoughts on the OnStar FMV mirror, check out the BlogHer Prizes and Promotions section.

2 Comments

I totally love my OnStar too. I love being able to call home if I forgot my phone and I love being able to use my phone with the bluetooth. I don't use the directions so much so we got rid of that but I live in a much smaller metro area than you. I do enjoy the peace of mind too, especially since I have kids.

The only problem I run into is that when I am angry it doesn't recognize my voice quite right and has trouble figuring out who I want to call. Which proceeds to make my daughter laugh her butt off in the seat next to me, making OnStar think that I am saying numbers and then it dials random people just from the sound of her laughter. It does usually diffuse my anger though so I suppose there's something to be said for that!

I think the idea of OnStar is a good one but I worry a bit about the company practices after reading a few articles about their privacy.

Here is a blog post that was linked to by slashdot about some of the privacy issues.

http://www.zdziarski.com/blog/?p=1270

I think the idea is wonderful and it sounds like it works well but I do not want anyone selling my driving habits to marketers.

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