New OnStar features turn your car into a global media pod

Posted by Mark Raby

If theft protection, accident monitoring, and immediate emergency access aren't enough reasons for you to put OnStar in your car, what if it also gave you unfettered access to the World Wide Web?

That's right. At an OnStar event in New York, executives at the head of the service announced a bunch of big changes coming soon to in-car functionality. OnStar is changing from something that gives drivers peace of mind to something that also could potentially make them more distracted.

First up, OnStar-enabled cars will start providing drivers and riders with Wi-Fi access. It's a feature that more and more car manufacturers are starting to incorporate, and now it could be coming standard with anyone who signs up for GM's OnStar service.

That access opens up a whole variety of features for drivers to use without ever taking their hands off the wheel. This includes Pandora Internet radio, news podcasts from Stitcher, and possibly even checking e-mail.

It's part of a push to make OnStar more attractive to tech heads. OnStar is also toying with adding voice-controlled Facebook access as well as the ability to read text messages to drivers so they won't have to pick up their phone.

OnStar has always provided communication services like being able to place phone calls and book restaurant reservations, but its marketing campaign for the last few years has been exclusively focused on its safety features. That will begin to change.

The next step is getting the go-ahead from regulators to add all these features.