Kings Of The Road

Any Time, Anywhere

You've probably had an American Automobile Association (AAA) membership for years. During that time, it's come in handy for free maps, discounts on car insurance, and even towing service to get your car to the mechanic when necessary. But can you call AAA for directions to the nearest gas station or hotel? How about for help finding your car when you forget where it's parked in the airport lot?

That's where services like OnStar, with Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) technology, come in handy. A voice-activated cellular phone in your car can link you to the OnStar Center 24 hours a day to talk with live operators who can pinpoint your exact location and provide directions or just give you the location of nearby hotels, restaurants, ATMs and hospitals.

OnStar services also come to your rescue in times of trouble. If you've locked your keys in the car, the toll-free number puts you in touch with an operator who can unlock your car doors remotely. OnStar can also honk the horn and flash the lights, alerting you to your car's location if you can't find it, or can help locate and recover your vehicle if it's been stolen.

Admittedly, OnStar's GPS technology isn't perfect. It once gave me directions for heading north instead of south, so all the instructions were reversed. It's also fairly pricey: $1,495 plus dealer installation and $29.95 monthly service charges. And it's currently available only on selected Cadillac, Pontiac-GMC, Oldsmobile and Chevrolet automobiles.

If you're on the road a lot, particularly in unfamiliar territory, OnStar makes it easy to get where you need to go. Plus, it's reassuring to know that, no matter where you are, someone's watching over you.

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This article was originally published in the April 1999 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Kings Of The Road.

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