GM's OnStar Puts Stock in Service

By Lee Copeland Gladwin, Computerworld |  Networking

General Motors Corp.'s OnStar division earlier this month unveiled plans to add real-time trading and financial market data to its in-vehicle communications service.

Detroit-based GM is teaming with Boston-based Fidelity Investments for the new service, which will be available in two phases.

Using voice-activated commands, all OnStar subscribers will have access to computer-read stock quotes and market information as part of GM's nationwide Virtual Advisor launch in April, officials said. Access to individual Fidelity accounts for wireless stock trading, checking account balances and using other portfolio management features will be available only to Fidelity customers, starting late this summer.

"This is just the beginning for OnStar," said Jonathan Gaw, an analyst at IDC in Framingham, Mass. "They're trying to make OnStar a communications system that would bring you everything you would find in an automated telephone system, and they're implementing it in a hands-free environment."

A Growing User Base

The OnStar in-vehicle communications service combines Global Positioning System cellular technology and an around-the-clock service center. It was originally launched by OnStar in Cadillacs in 1996 as an emergency concierge and roadside assistance service.

Since then, the service has been augmented to include cellular calling and Virtual Advisor, a Web-based, voice-activated e-mail, news and Web content service. Virtual Advisor is currently available to subscribers in the northeastern U.S. and will roll out nationwide in April.

OnStar is available as a factory-installed option on 32 of GM's 54 vehicle lines. About 800,000 drivers subscribe at a cost of $199 or $399 per year, depending on the service level.

Japanese automakers Honda Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp. license GM's telematic (in-vehicle communications) service on their high-end vehicles.

But Geri Lama, a GM spokeswoman, said Toyota won't be offering Virtual Advisor or access to Fidelity accounts to subscribers of its Lexus Link service due to stipulations in the contract between GM and Toyota. Honda customers will have access to the financial service offerings when the 2002 Acura RL ships later this year, she said.

"This will be a luxury product, initially," Gaw said.

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