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GM goes app happy

Buttoned down: GM’s Marketplace brings commercial apps into the car for the first time.

In-car commercial apps bring huge range of services to GM driver fingertips

7 Dec 2017

GENERAL Motors has become the first motor company to roll out an in-car platform for commercial apps to enable drivers to order coffee, find a petrol station, reserve a restaurant table, book a parking space and numerous other actions, all from the car’s infotainment screen.

Called GM Marketplace, the system developed with computer giant IBM is being launched in the United States by being automatically uploaded to 1.9 million 2017 model-year vehicles.

Australia’s Holden is almost certain to follow suit once it upgrades its connectivity system with OnStar on new models in 2019.

So far, 12 giant corporations have developed apps for GM Marketplace, including Starbucks, Shell, Dunkin’ Donuts and TGI Fridays. GM says many others will follow.

The apps are specially designed and vetted by GM for simple in-car operation, and require the vehicle to be connected to a 4G LTE mobile phone network, which OnStar-equipped cars are.

The service costs car owners nothing, but corporations wanting their app to be available on Marketplace will have to pay a fee to GM.

Drivers can select any app they want from those available – or none at all. The apps are bunched under a Marketplace button on the infotainment home screen, and then under a number of other buttons such as Order Food, Fuel Up, Shop and more.

To order a Starbucks coffee, for example, the driver hits the Food button, then taps the Starbucks logo, selects the nearest Starbucks outlet, the type of coffee from a menu, and submits the order by tapping a send button.

Theoretically, the coffee will be ready at the drive-in window at Starbucks where the orders automatically come up on a screen.

A Featured button on Marketplace brings up special offers from companies with apps on the system.

The Shop button dedicated to GM includes service and accessory specials, as well as buy more Wi-Fi data for the car.

GM global connected experience vice-president Santiago Chamorro said the system had the potential to “give time back” to motorists who spent an average of 46 minutes a day commuting.

“Marketplace is the first of a suite of new personalisation features that we will roll out over the next 12 to 18 months to nearly four million US drivers,” he said.

Mr Chamorro said Marketplace allowed merchants to more safely engage with consumers while they we driving, compared with mobile phone apps.

GM said the system is designed to be used while driving, minimising manual interactions to help drivers keep their eyes on the road.

Although Holden is yet to spell out exactly what services it will offer on its new-look OnStar system due in 2019, this service would seem to be a no-brainer.

OnStar will debut on the new Equinox medium SUV before being rolled out across other models as they are introduced or refreshed.

Holden previously offered a more basic connectivity service, dubbed Holden Assist, with services such as emergency assistance in the case of a crash, breakdown assistance and stolen car tracking and disabling.

OnStar still uses a mobile phone connection and GPS connection, but offers a much wider range of features such as Wi-Fi hotspot, theft alarm notification, remote access via a phone app and location manager.

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