General Motors Corp.'s OnStar operation adds to its impressive list of services with last week's announcement that it is teaming up with Etak Inc. and Metro Networks to offer personalized and location-based traffic information.

The companies say there is serious demand for such service despite the abundance of traffic news offered by radio stations in most major U.S. metro areas. “The most desired service, beyond what we offer in our current portfolio, is traffic,” says OnStar President Chet Huber.

Traffic reports will be made available with OnStar's new Virtual Advisor service, which offers subscribers voice-activated Internet and cell phone access. It will be rolled out nationwide during first quarter 2001, following a December launch in the Northeast. The traffic service probably will raise the Virtual Advisor subscription rate, though pricing hasn't been finalized.

Using a variety of resources including roadside cameras, local authorities and the Internet, Etak claims it will allow subscribers to retrieve reports on accidents, road congestion, travel delays, construction, weather-related road conditions and major events, such as sports and concerts. Metro Networks' Traffic Data Feed, covering 92% of the nation's urban centers, also will be used to provide real-time traffic information. OnStar wouldn't disclose financial details of the deal.

Using OnStar's Global Positioning System satellite receiver, a subscriber initially will be able to access traffic information based on the location of his vehicle. Ultimately, drivers will be able to pick preferred routes via a “MyOnStar” homepage on the Internet. More personalized information options are on the way, such as weather reports. Metro Works and Etak are the first nationally known companies to provide content for Virtual Advisor, but they won't be the last, OnStar says.