OnStar to allow Facebook updates while driving

We all know what torture it is being unable to update your Facebook status while driving. How on earth are your friends to cope without knowing that you’re stuck at a red light, say, or running a bit low on gas?

But salvation is in sight. OnStar is testing a voice-to-text feature for its in-car communications system, and says it could be used to make Facebook status updates while on the move.

The OnStar service currently provides accident alerts, directions, vehicle diagnostics and emergency roadside assistance. It’s available on around 30 vehicle models, and costs between $200 and $300 a year, although the first year’s usually free. The system currently has around 5.7 million users.

But sources at the General Motors subsidiary have told Bloombergthat the company’s finalizing technology that would allow users to make status updates and listen to their news feeds while on the move. It’s currently testing it with a small number of users.

The company’s also adding the ability to connect a user’s cellphone to the OnStar system via Bluetooth, allowing users to call hands-free and listen to incoming text messages. They can reply by clicking a button on the steering wheel and using voice commands to select one of four pre-set replies.

Also in the pipeline, says OnStar, is the possibility of offering in-car entertainment and information services.

It’s OnStar’s attempt to continue playing leapfrog with Ford, which has announced plans to upgrade its Sync service, based on Microsoft technology, to include social networking and web browsing. The new features are expected to appear early next year, and the company says they should be included in 80 percent of its models by 2015.