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OnStar coming to all cars for $299

The OnStar in-vehicle safety system has been available on selected vehicles from General Motors since 1996, but now the technology is finally going to bust loose in a form that will make it available to a wider range of vehicles—even if they’re not made by GM. This spring, consumer electronics retailers will begin selling a standalone version of OnStar that takes the form of a replacement rear-view mirror that can be installed in most “top-selling” vehicles from major manufacturers. And the U.S. first retail partner on the product will be electronics retailing giant Best Buy.

“For years, thousands of drivers have asked us to get OnStar in vehicles that didn’t feature it as standard,” said OnStar president Chris Preuss, in a statement. “This move in to the consumer electronics space represents the biggest development in our business model since introducing OnStar as standard across all GM products several years ago.”

The retail version on OnStar will offer the core features that have made the product popular, including the famous “blue button” along with turn-by-turn navigation services, stolen vehicle locations assistance, automatic crash response, and one-touch access to roadside and emergency services. The device will also offer hands-free calling via Bluetooth. The replacement mirror will be priced at $299, and users will need to pay to have it installed at an additional cost estimated between $75 and $100. Of course, users then need OnStar service, which starts at $18.95 a month or $199 a year.

The mirrors will be available initially through Best Buy, but Ingram Micro will act as a distributor for getting the standalone OnStar product into additional retailers.

OnStar has come a long way since its introduction in 1996: the standalone rearview mirror weighs just 23 ounces and should take technicians less than an hour to install. However, it represents the ninth generation of OnStar technology: back when OnStar got started the system was 38 separate components and took up to four days to install. OnStar has also announced it plans to leverage Verizon Wireless LTE technology to not only handle communications for vehicle safety and navigation, but also add home monitoring capabilities and in-vehicle entertainment.