In today’s world of app connected cars the days when you simply jumped in a car, turned a key in the ignition and were off are becoming but a distant memory. Instead the increased sophistication of cars’ on-board computing systems and apps that interface with the car to improve or enhance the driving experience, mean that drivers are faced with ever increasing amounts of information which is changing the way we drive for good. The volume of such on-the-go information is set to increase yet further, according to new research from Juniper Research which says that by 2017 there will be 120 million app-connected vehicles on the road. It says within the next five years 1 in 5 cars in the US and Western Europe will be able to access Internet apps – either through smartphone attachments that allow tethering to cars’ on-board computer systems such as MirrorLink, which allows access to apps on a smartphone through the same interface used to control a car’s radio, or direct to the systems themselves.
In the same way that retailers are recognising the power of location based marketing of shoppers who are browsing or walking close to their stores having such a capability in customers’ cars increases their ability to literally pull in customers – allowing would be shoppers to find stores and check product availability while on the road, as well as for retailers to advertise relevant offers to them en-route. But as with the capability of apps on a phone the connected car encompasses far more than just shopping; including everything from Wi-Fi for passengers, to useful services that have at their heart the real-time, location based information a connected car can give. This can enable everything from warnings on road conditions or diagnostics of the car itself to location of petrol stations. The potential of the market for insurance telematics, whereby companies will reward drivers with lower premiums based on driver’s real driving data, is also proving huge in the M2M and automotive apps market. Vehicle manufacturers therefore are also increasingly recognising the importance of apps within the manufacture of models by opening up their platforms to developers. In January Ford introduced a new AppLink API which allows mobile apps to talk to its cars and has since launched a competition for app developers to create a new fuel efficiency app and launched a hackathon with Facebook. General Motors has also introduced its own API and SDK for an in-vehicle app platform that would let developers run apps hosted in the cars infotainment system and has a developer site at https://developer.gm.com/. It has also announced plans to kit out many of its models with 4G LTE connections in 2015. Audi meanwhile has announced plans to have one million connected vehicles in the same timeframe. In March at the International Auto Show in New York BMW revealed that like Mercedes-Benz and Ford it was tying up with Glympse -- an app that allows you to send a pre-set message about your location on a timer to work colleagues or a spouse for example rather than having to call while en-route. It also announced partnerships with audio books app Audible, and music services Rhapsody and TuneIn. Such apps are being added to the luxury car makers’ Connected App service which already allows drivers to do everything from find their parked car to update their social media statuses. With such potential it’s no surprise this is a hot topic for developers and the market just now. As such Apps World Europe, which is being held in London’s Earls Court in October, will see the launch of the first Hackfest dedicated to the development of automotive apps. The Auto Hackfest is one of three hackathons being held at the event, bringing together developers, automotive manufacturers, designers, agencies and technologists to attempt to build the next big thing in automotive apps. Sponsored by GM the event certainly promises to drive yet further interest in this fast moving sector. The topic will also be high on the agenda at Apps World Europe itself, with a workshop dedicated to M2M and automotive apps. What the future holds remains to be seen but (excuse the over-abundance of driving puns) there is little doubt that the market is accelerating quickly. Some have criticised the industry for trying to force their own proprietary system rather than an across platform solution. Others have said that apps within the vehicle are simply another driver distraction rather than a helpful tool and that the connected car is simply technology gone too far. Whether its true uses lie in infotainment, diagnostics or insurance telematics one thing is for sure - the days where your car only told you the basics such as how much petrol you have and what speed you are doing are long gone. Today’s vehicles are far more intelligent than that!