Facebook Audio Updates Coming to GM's OnStar

General Motors said it is testing Facebook audio updates for its OnStar platform. Spoken Web input is a big deal.

General Motors, which is battling Ford in the market for Web-enabled communications via motor vehicles, confirmed it is testing Facebook audio updates for its OnStar roadside assistance and navigation platform.

The experimental social media application would allow OnStar subscribers to verbally update their Facebook status and listen to their most recent news feed messages by speaking into their GM vehicle's OnStar Virtual Advisor, OnStar Communications Vice President Jocelyn Allen told eWEEK Sept. 8.

"OnStar is currently testing various technologies that support responsible connectivity," Allen said. "All of our technologies are rigorously evaluated prior to launch."

Another feature OnStar is testing is a voice-based SMS (short message service), which would allow customers to have their text messages read to them using Bluetooth.

By pressing a button on the steering wheel of a GM vehicle, users can reply back to a text by speaking one of four preset replies.

Voice-based SMS affords OnStar and GM other opportunities for customers and applications makers. Ideally, users would be able to update their Twitter accounts with such technology.

The appeal of voice-based Web input in general is huge for auto-travel, where users need to use their hands to drive and some states in the country require drivers to use hands-free headsets while speaking on cell phones.

Voice-based input is also becoming more popular on mobile devices such as smartphones based on Google's Android operating system.

Final approval of the experimental voice input technologies depends on whether they satisfy GM customers.

"OnStar has always operated on the premise that while the possibilities of technological innovation are endless, the company will not implement a new service simply because it's technically feasible, it has to be the right thing to do for the customer," Allen said.

That isn't getting in the way of OnStar's new advertising campaign, which will launch soon to help the company "connect with our customers."

OnStar is battling Ford's Synch software, which is powered by Microsoft, in the market for Web-enabled communications in motor vehicles.

Ford and OnStar both allow drivers to e-mail directions from Google Maps using their mobile phones to certain motor vehicles.