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I have a fancy-schmancy rear-view mirror!

(This post was originally published on my review page, but I’ve now been asked to move it here. 🙂

It’s called an OnStar FMV (For My Vehicle).

Basically, it’s an OnStar device that can be purchased at an electronics store and installed into your car, even if it’s not manufactured by GM.

It has all the usual OnStar capabilities (like Automatic Crash Response) plus it offers hands-free calling and turn-by-turn navigation.

Since all of this is packaged into a mirror, installation is fairly unobtrusive…the FMV just replaces the normal rear-view mirror.

And there’s a little microphone that gets installed above the driver’s head.

Since the OnStar FMVneeds to be wired into the vehicle, it’s not as simple as just slapping the mirror up, and so OnStar recommends professional installation.

Installation takes 1-2 hours, so we dropped our van off and waited for a friend pick us up.

We amused ourselves by taking pictures while we waited.

Once my mirror was installed, I wanted to give it a try right away. Having never used an OnStar device before, I just sort of started randomly pressing buttons and accidentally called an OnStar advisor, who was very gracious about being called for no good reason. 😉

After that, I read my manual, and things went better. If you prefer, though, you can press the OnStar button and someone will walk you through a demo.

The button on the left is for hands-free calling…after you push the button, everything else is entirely speech-activated. This is great if you live in an area where it’s illegal to use hand-held devices while driving. And even if you don’t, it’s still a great feature because legal or not, messing with a cell phone while driving isn’t safe.

OnStar offers pre-paid minutes that you can use with your mirror, or you can sync your existing phone to the FMV.

The voice recognition system works pretty well, although it did occasionally misunderstand the numbers I was trying to say. You can program in the numbers you call regularly, which would make the process simpler….instead of having to speak my phone number, I could program it so that I can just say, “Call home”.

The middle button is what you press to be connected to a OnStar advisor, who can help you with any number of things, like sending someone to change a flat tire or to supply you with gas. I’ve only had occasion to ask for turn-by-turn directions, thankfully, and all of the reps I’ve spoken to thus far have been uber-polite, pleasant, and helpful.

I was a little bit skeptical about how well this would work as compared to a GPS, but both Mr. FG and I were fairly impressed. Basically, you just tell the OnStar rep where you want to go, and they download directions straight to the FMV. The FMV gives you plenty of warning when a turn is coming up, so even though there’s no visual map, it’s pretty easy to follow the directions.

Because the FMV operates off of voice commands, I think it would have a definite leg up on a GPS if I got lost or needed to change destinations in the midst of driving. A GPS needs to have its buttons pushed manually (that’s not safe while you’re driving), but with the FMV, you can push a simple button and get someone on the line to help you.

The FMV is equipped with crash recognition capabilities, so if your vehicle gets into an accident, the FMV can automatically send an alert to OnStar. An Advisor is immediately connected into your vehicle to help you. Even when you can’t speak, the Advisor can use GPS technology to send emergency responders to your exact location.

The FMV also has an emergency button, which gives you a priority connection to an OnStar emergency advisor. I didn’t have opportunity to test either of those functions, fortunately!

So, what do I think of the FMV overall?

If you:

-really value the safety features that OnStar offers

-want a multi-tasking device

-process auditory information better than visual information

-tend to get lost while driving

-don’t already own a GPS

-don’t mind the price point ($299) or the monthly subscription fees (these vary depending the service level you choose)

then the the FMV could meet your needs really well.

I also think it would be a handy device for someone who isn’t particularly good at using electronic devices…since almost everything on the FMV is voice-activated, anyone can use it, even people who aren’t remotely tech-savvy. Or if you’ve got an elderly parent that you worry about, installing an FMV in their vehicle could provide peace of mind for you while maintaining your parents’ independence.

If you don’t need the OnStar safety features, prefer a visual interface and are on a tighter budget, a traditional GPS system would probably be more appropriate for your needs. Most new GPS systems offer bluetooth capability, and obviously they offer navigation services…they just don’t have the OnStar specific features and they’re not usually voice-activated.

So, if you’re trying to decide between an FMV and a GPS, the decision probably would boil down to just how much you value the safety and connectedness that OnStar-specific services offer.

What do you think? Would you buy the FMV for yourself or a loved one?

If you’d like to find out more about the OnStar FMV, visit the OnStar Facebook page.

To get other bloggers’ thoughts on the OnStar FMV, Visit the Prizes and Promotions section at BlogHer.

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Sunday 4th of September 2011

One important note about hands-free cell phone use while driving: it's just as unsafe as picking up the cell phone. And using a cell phone while driving is just as dangerous as driving drunk. I can post (or maybe link to) one of the many studies that shows this.

So please, don't use a cell phone while you drive. If you have to pick up the phone, pull over first. We survived lo these many years without car phones, let's be sure we survive with them.


Friday 2nd of September 2011

I like our GPS system. It does have voice activation too. Not talking to a real person though but it does lead you out, even if you make a wrong turn and it shows you many points of interests and hospitals. Ours was for free (a gift) so I think the Onstar is pretty pricey but everyone knows what they need*. Since I don't travel alone (like far distances) I'm content with what I have, I guess.


Friday 2nd of September 2011

That's cool! Didn't realize such a device was out there. Enjoy! :)


Thursday 1st of September 2011

We love Onstar. THough we seldom use it, when we found ourselves lost in a very scary neighborhood in Chicago, it was nice to have a voice guiding us out very quickly. ANother time, my husband needed immediate medical attention in an unfamiliar area and we got prompt assistance to the nearest hospital. I consider the money well spent for the peace of mind it gives me.


Thursday 1st of September 2011

I really do think that this OnStar thingy is an awesome idea and I'm seriously considering getting one for my little Nissan.

That being said, I'm just curious as to what your criteria is for moving sponsored/review posts from your other blog to your personal blog is? I know you've made similar posts before but you've usually preceeded it with a reason pertaining to why but this time you said "but I've now been asked to move it here." It's none of my bees-wax, but I was just wondering why ...

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