Some time ago, I wrote a column about GPS, the global positioning system in cars. It’s a navigation system that can help you find your way from point to point by using an electronic mapping system – to explain for those of you still living in the Stone Age, like me.
Apparently, this has been around for years – I’m just a slow adapter. After seeing GPS in action, I thought I’d seen it all. However, as the old timers say here in the South, “You ain’t seen nuthin’ yet!”
What I didn’t know about was another innovation right out of science fiction called “On Star.” Even scarier is the fact that this stuff is standard equipment on all new GM cars. So, look out behind you! The future is gaining on us whether we are ready or not.
The other day we got in the car, tired and ready to come home. But, the car began to TALK. I thought we were being hijacked. “Your new ‘On Star’ system has been activated,” said a voice from nowhere. “Press the blue button to complete the activation.”
I wanted to drive straight to the closest police station and have the car taken into custody, but my man, much to my dismay, pressed the blue button on the mirror that I had never noticed.
Soon a lady’s voice began to tell us all about the new system. I looked in the back seat, but she wasn’t back there. She must be talking through the radio? Either that or the poor thing was in the trunk!
The voice from nowhere proceeded to tell us that she was actually in Canada and was explaining what the different buttons were for while I continued to try to figure out where she was actually hiding.
The red button is for emergencies, like wrecks or police emergencies. The blue button is for roadside assistance, and the third button is a telephone. Depending on which button you push, Star Lady sends appropriate assistance.
Now I’m not really convinced that we need all this convenience in our lives. Seems too much like “Big Brother” to me. I’m still trying to get used to cell phones myself.
My honey proceeded to chat with the voice from Canada about Montreal. The system began to tell us why we needed it and what it could do. The emergency system activates itself if the airbags inflate. It has its own GPS that can pinpoint our location so emergency services can find us.
Well, that does sound sort of useful. I hope we never need that service, though.
The green button is sort of like AAA. Of course, we already have AAA, not to mention roadside assistance through the car insurance and, I believe, most car manufacturers have roadside assistance too.
“But this is better,” explains the answer lady, “because it knows exactly where you are.” If your car is stolen, On Star can even help the police locate it — or what’s left of it.
The telephone feature is hands-free, therefore safer, and four times more powerful than a locomotive. err… I mean a cell phone. Of course, it does have an activation fee and minute usage fee attached, but it’s for emergencies.
I think I can live without this. However, it is like the camera phones and iPads we deluded ourselves into thinking we actually need.
There’s no place left to hide, no such thing as getting lost, running out of gas, or forgetting to charge the cell phone. No more excuses, no more secrets, no more challenge of the unknown, or thrill of discovery.
Frankly, I am still mainly interested in exactly how that voice does it and where it is really coming from.