DETROIT (April 12, 2000)—The American Automobile Association soon will offer its own wireless driver aid service in a direct challenge to General Motors´ OnStar business.
AAA´s Response Services Center LLC will be tested in up to six markets early next year. It will offer subscribers many of the services now available to OnStar users. They include an instant link to an operator who can provide route guidance, send a tow truck, track a stolen vehicle or alert emergency services after a crash.
Eventually, AAA, of Heathrow, Fla., wants to package other services, such as Internet connectivity and remote vehicle diagnostics.
Response Services Center represents the first attempt by a nonautomaker to offer personal telematic services independently in the United States. Several companies in Europe, including Germany´s Mannesmann AG and Deutsche Telekom, have formed joint ventures with auto makers there.
Telematics is the wireless transmission of data to and from a vehicle. OnStar pioneered the telematics market in 1996.
Marshall Doney, vice president of AAA services, hopes to expand its service more quickly than GM did by tapping into AAA´s 43 million members. The association´s 86 affiliated clubs will market and sell the service. They will direct customers to a local aftermarket installer to have the requisite cellular communications and global positioning system hardware fitted to their vehicles.
The communications device establishes a phone link with the operator while the global positioning system uploads the vehicle´s location based on data received from satellites. Initially, Response Services will have 550 operators in Columbia, Md.
AAA is negotiating a deal with a national aftermarket electronics chain to be the installer. Mr. Doney would not identify the company. He would not say what the company plans to charge for its service. "We haven´t identified a specific pricing model,´´ he said.
Daniel Dickerson, who helped develop Ford Motor Co.´s Lincoln Remote Emergency Satellite Cellular Unit (or RESCU) service while working for Westinghouse Security Systems, is president of the new company.
He said Response Services is looking to become a partner with Internet and high-tech companies, much as OnStar has joined with Commerce One Inc., Sony Corp., GTE Wireless Services and America Online Inc.
As with GM, the partnerships would add content to AAA´s service, could provide better communications and hardware and could help defray the "many millions" it costs to launch the service. &Copy;