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GM’s plan for apps in cars

John Day

John Day

Posted Jan 24, 2013
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Ford offers AppLink, an application programming interface (API) that developers can use to make their smartphone apps compatible with Ford’s SYNC infotainment system.

Earlier this month General Motors revealed its plan for working with developers to bring smartphone apps to GM vehicles. The company announced a flexible application framework that includes APIs and a software development kit (SDK) for developers. The SDK uses the HTML5 JavaScript framework. An online portal for developers includes a forum where developers can ask questions, and a blog to keep developers informed. GM says it will use input and feedback from developers to improve the app framework.

The online developer portal includes a forum where developers can ask questions of a technical specialist.  The portal also will host a blog for developers to keep them informed on the latest news and information. GM will use the input and feedback from the developer community to continuously improve the app framework.

Until now, GM offered a few select developers access to remote APIs that interact with the vehicle via the OnStar system. The new SDK lets developers work with the actual vehicle through the infotainment system – new infotainment systems that will debut in select 2014 model year vehicles. The new systems will include a catalog with a menu of available applications that owners can select. When it’s ready, the app catalog will include  iHeartRadio, TuneIn, Slacker and The Weather Channel.

“We have designed our SDK so that developers only have to write the software code once to address the entire population of vehicles and end users,” says GM Chief Infotainment Officer Phil Abram. “Developers can repurpose existing tools and code from existing projects as long as they’re consistent with applicable licenses. Our app policies will also provide flexibility in how developers can design commercial aspects of their apps as well.”

GM will define a full certification process and business model for apps. Once apps are developed, or ported, developers can submit them on the online portal.  If they’re approved, GM will provide the developer with next steps to test and publish the app for customer access. Once apps have been approved, future owners of certain GM models will be able to download them directly to the vehicle through the app catalog, so the infotainment system has potential to improve over time.

Abram says there will be a category of apps that will be unique to GM cars and “very different from what people use today on their smartphones or tablets. It’s not just taking phone apps and making them function in a car, which most car companies do in some form now.  Instead, GM may approve applications that stem from vehicle ownership. For example, customers can choose to download applications that assist them in driving more safely or in a more fuel efficient manner, possibly decreasing the costs of vehicle ownership.”

He adds, “We are providing developers a pathway to develop for a new audience in a new setting, resulting in new customers. GM intends to cultivate a relationship with these developers to explore new apps that will benefit the overall driving experience. This is part of GM’s commitment to bring customer-centric technology to our vehicles and establish a community where developers can join in exploring what’s possible with in-vehicle apps.”

This should be worth watching.

Slacker, OnStar, system development kit (SDK), AppLink, Ford, application programming interface (API), The Weather Channel., HTML5 JavaScript, iheartradio, TuneIn, General Motors, GM

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John DayJohn Day recently launched John Day’s Automotive Electronics News (johndayautomotivelectronics.com) to provide news and feature coverage of the automotive electronics industry. Earlier he wrote for Auto Electronics magazine, Auto E-lectronics, EE Times, and other business and engineering publications. Visit John Day

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