OnStar's Family Link tracking package launching in mid-April (updated: hands-on)

Looks like OnStar's finally ready to go live with the Family Link program it was talking up last summer. The service, which lets family members track vehicles for the low, low price of $3.99 (on top of an existing OnStar package), is set to begin a phased rollout next month. Family Link revolves around two primary, similarly named features: Vehicle Locate and Vehicle Location Alert. The first lets concerned relatives view the vehicle's location on a map and the second sends an alert at a chosen interval, letting the vehicle's location be known via text or email. The initial roll out will be open to select subscribers in April, with more invitations hitting in June and a more complete rollout later in the year.

We went hands-on with the service at an OnStar demo in New York City, tracking vehicles in both New Jersey and Detroit. Family Link was able to locate a connected truck in Detroit in a mere five seconds, zeroing in on the vehicle's precise location at OnStar HQ in Michigan (note: we had tracked another vehicle in New Jersey a few minutes before -- that time with a roughly 20 second delay). It's not designed for constant tracking -- you won't see the car icon moving down the map as you drive -- but it appears to be an excellent solution for keeping tabs on your kids as they drive OnStar-equipped vehicles. We also took a look at those handy text vehicle location alerts, that OnStar will push directly to any mobile device or email address at user-selected intervals. Jump past the break to see our hands-on with both Family Link components.

Zach Honig contributed to this report.

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Connected Families Can Rely on OnStar

OnStar today announced the launch of Family Link, a new service that will allow subscribers to stay connected to their loved ones when driving an OnStar-equipped vehicle.

Family Link is an optional service that includes two key features:
Vehicle Locate: Subscribers can log onto the Family Link website to view a map with the vehicle's location at any time.
Vehicle Location Alert: Subscribers can set up email or text message notifications to let them know the location of their loved one's vehicle. They can choose the day, time and frequency of the alerts.

Family Link is OnStar's first a la carte service. Subscribers can add it to any existing OnStar package for $3.99 per month.

"For more than 16 years, OnStar has developed and enhanced our service by listening to our customers," said OnStar Vice President of Subscriber Services, Joanne Finnorn. "They tell us how they use technology and what they want it to do. Last year, we had more than 4,500 subscribers test the Family Link service and they told us it provides them peace of mind by staying connected to their family when they're on the road."

Family Link begins a phased launch in mid-April with select subscribers invited to sign up. More subscribers will receive an invitation in June. The service will roll out to all U.S. customers throughout the year.

Access to the Family Link website requires an OnStar user name and password. Only the subscriber with access can locate a vehicle or send alerts.

To use Vehicle Locate, subscribers log onto the Family Link website and navigate to the Vehicles tab and click on Locate. Once the vehicle has been located, the vehicle's icon will be shown on the map. Additional location details can be seen by hovering over the vehicle.

To set up a Location Alert, subscribers log on to the Family Link website and navigate to the Alerts tab and click on Add Alert. The subscriber can request the day of week and time to receive an alert, as well as notification preference: text, email or both. Location Alerts will include the address the vehicle is near as well as the date and time.

"OnStar continues to evolve because we spend time listening to our subscribers so that we can develop new technologies and applications that meet their needs," said Finnorn. "Family Link is the result of OnStar turning what they imagine into a solution they can use."