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Drivers rely on OnStar to evade Hurricane Gustav

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2008/08/31/financial/f184034D87.DTL

For the most part, the callers were calm, patiently asking for the fastest path out of New Orleans or some other Gulf Coast city as Hurricane Gustav twisted its way to the northwest.

They started calling General Motors Corp.'s OnStar service by the thousands early Saturday, and by Sunday, their numbers had grown to well over 3,000 per hour.

"There's a lot of people that are stranded on the evacuation routes," said Brad Williams, a service manager for the automaker's motorist help line who was overseeing OnStar's response from a command center in Downtown Detroit.

As more than 2 million people tried to outrun the deadly storm, OnStar beefed up its staff to around 500 and put emergency plans in place at three call centers in Pontiac, Oshawa, Ontario, and Charlotte, N.C.

Managers expected Sunday's calls to reach 75,000, about double the number on a normal Sunday.

The storm calls are sent to specially trained OnStar advisers, many of whom were on duty during Hurricane Katrina.

"They're more prepared. They know what questions have been asked," said Williams.

The advisers were armed with computerized maps, databases of hotels with vacancies and even locations of Red Cross emergency shelters, Williams said.

All day, callers asked for the closest hotel with vacant rooms. They asked OnStar to find loved ones who were on the road. But most of all, they wanted to get around the clogged Interstate evacuation routes.

"They don't want to get on the major highways because they know traffic is at a standstill," said Kim Dupee, a senior adviser in Charlotte who spent much of Sunday directing people out of metro New Orleans. "It's steady. The calls don't stop."

Advisers reported that most callers were calm, leaving well in advance of the storm. Governments and drivers, they said, were far better prepared for Gustav than they were for Hurricane Katrina.

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That is an awesome story. I hope OnStar and GM get the attention they deserve.
 

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Awesome to hear Onstar took so many steps to be prepared! Great Job!

I have OnStar in my Saturn Vue. I think bluetooth through my exisiting phone is better then a seperate phone number for the car; and I'm skeptical that turn-by-turn is better then a real Nav system... But the emergency and other helpful features are fantastic.

I have wondered if Onstar actually sells that many cars or if it would be better for GM to make Onstar available to other manufacturers. Bet there would be lots of money if Onstar could reach ALL car buyers.
 

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Wow, OnStar is locating other vehicles of relitives for people? Nice. Only GM can do that for it's customers.
 

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Another great testament of how the innovation of GM came through yet again... GM's OnStar is a remarkable tool for the demands of today's consumer...

Great stuff I must say...
 

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Hopefully people will realize that Onstar is a lot more useful than the nav systems that people are whining about GM not putting in everything.
 

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Hopefully people will realize that Onstar is a lot more useful than the nav systems that people are whining about GM not putting in everything.
People aren't whining about GM offering OnStar. People are whining about GM not offering navigation systems.
 

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Wow, OnStar is locating other vehicles of relitives for people? Nice. Only GM can do that for it's customers.
I learned that from watching Malibu's Most Wanted (hilarious by the way)! They tracked the vehicle with license plate "D-Shiznit". lol

Good on On-Star, that's a neat story.
 

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Now that would be cool.
I'm pretty sure that OnStar does that already. You can have the turn-by-turn directions sent to the unit either from your computer using mapquest or by pushing the blue OnStar button. I wish my Vue was equipped to do something like that... oh well.
 

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I used OnStar after Hurricane Ivan to help me find a gas station that acutally had gas. They actually called around to several that were near me and found me one and at that time, most were out!
 

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When you call OnStar do you sometimes get put on hold? I can't imagine that they can answer every call instantly. Anyone ever have to wait very long?
Usually its instantly. There are times where it can take 5-10 minutes max to get on a call with an adviser, depending on the amount of people calling in.
 

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Onstar Rocks
Yes, Onstar is good, WHEN you can get thru to them. It's not perfect. When the signal is weak, calls get dropped, and on one occasion, we asked for directions, and they told us they weren't available for the area we were in, but they could give us verbal directions (not the automated ones for directions and connections), so I was upset over that, they need to improve the signals, I thought Onstar had a signal, no matter where you are in the U.S., but it's not true. If there are too many trees around, Onstar doesn't work. I hope I don't get into an accident where there are too many trees around, I won't be able to use Onstar when it's most important, so I am not 100% sold on it.

As for the people in New Orleans, our thoughts and prayers go out to them, it's truly a huge tragedy, and I'm sorry they have to go thru all that. Most of them have just finished rebuilding their houses, and now they will be destroyed again, it's sad.
 

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Yes, Onstar is good, WHEN you can get thru to them. It's not perfect. When the signal is weak, calls get dropped, and on one occasion, we asked for directions, and they told us they weren't available for the area we were in, but they could give us verbal directions (not the automated ones for directions and connections), so I was upset over that, they need to improve the signals, I thought Onstar had a signal, no matter where you are in the U.S., but it's not true. If there are too many trees around, Onstar doesn't work. I hope I don't get into an accident where there are too many trees around, I won't be able to use Onstar when it's most important, so I am not 100% sold on it.

As for the people in New Orleans, our thoughts and prayers go out to them, it's truly a huge tragedy, and I'm sorry they have to go thru all that. Most of them have just finished rebuilding their houses, and now they will be destroyed again, it's sad.
Weak signal exists in some areas. But generally much better than any cellphone provider can give you. Dropped calls have never happened to me. As for the directions, its perfectly plausible. This summer has been that much more difficult with the very poor weather, clouds were dense and the link with your car was difficult at times. But you could just call back a few minutes later and it would usually work.

However everything else you mentioned is false. OnStar very rarely makes you wait before getting patched through an advisor. I've made an emergency call from a very forestry area in a mountain at a provincial park, where there is no cell phone coverage. Without it the person may have been paralyzed or worse. There are times that it doesn't work perfectly, but it still works and not at all as bad as you make it sound to be.
 

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Commercial. Commercial. Onstar let's get a commercial...now!

During this mess or rather as soon as it clears, a commercial stating some of these numbers, using some of the sample directions calls, and more Onstar facts would be PERFECT. People get the message about accident response, etc., but they NEED to advertise this fact with a recent hurricane and do it while the story is hot. Marketing, at its best...if they do it.
 
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