Consumer interest in on-board vehicle connectivity is neck and neck with smartphone sales. Apple sold 16.2 million iPhones in the fourth quarter of 2010, and Android sales were 886 percent from 2009 to 2010. Two and a half years ago, only one in 10 Americans had a smartphone. By the end of 2013, there will be 1.1 billion smartphones, with annual sales of 300 million units, according to research firm Parks Associates Industries. Smartphone applications integrated into automotive telematics systems are transforming our vehicles into rolling data centers capable of maintaining at-the-wheel connectivity to networks, services and even your favorite social media sites.
Since being launched last year, the OnStar mobile app has been downloaded by more than 56,000 active users who have amassed 1.3 million interactions. That number is expected to grow in coming months as OnStar added a number of Buick, GMC and Cadillac vehicles from 2010 that allow users to download vehicle data and more to their mobile devices. GM has changed the branding of its SYNC competitor to IntelliLink for Buick and GMC models, although the features and functionality remain the same.
General Motors will begin rolling out MyLink later this year, and GM has expanded the connectivity system to include the 2012 Buick Verano, Regal and LaCrosse, along with the 2012 GMC Terrain. “I think it’s safe to say we are very pleased with how drivers have not only downloaded, but interacted with our mobile app,” said Sam Mancuso, chief marketing officer at OnStar. “This overwhelming reaction has confirmed our plans to continue to enhance the mobile app, including the potential development of a destination search and send-to-car feature.” Details on the app’s potential navigation features will be made available at a later date.
According to Allied Business Intelligence (ABI Research, Oyster Bay, N.Y.) there are a total of 37 million vehicle telematics users (such as OnStar subscribers), but less than 10 percent are accessing vehicle systems with their smartphone. ABI predicts that number to grow to over half by 2016, or 129 million. General Motors, Mercedes-Benz,and BMW have already pioneered adding smartphone connectivity for vehicle functions like door unlock, engine start, remote diagnostics and battery status, while third parties are developing a new crop of apps.
“Telematics service providers and independent system and software developers are rushing to launch smartphone applications,” said ABI Research Practice Director Dominique Bonte. “The dynamics of the smartphone and application store revolution are now spilling over into the automotive industry.”
Some cars will have features specific to the models, such as more battery info for the new Chevrolet Volt. OnStar says there will also be features specific to each brand – Cadillac, Buick, and GMC – “that will be revealed in totality when the brands begin bringing their apps to market in the months ahead.” According to Chris Preuss, OnStar president, “Giving our customers control of their vehicles with smartphone application technology is a key advantage of OnStar’s in-vehicle connectivity.”
The top use of the app for all vehicles is updating vehicle data, which includes checking fuel levels, oil life, next scheduled maintenance, and other vehicle usage, status and maintenance information. For drivers of GM vehicles, the second- and third most-used features of the app are locking and unlocking doors remotely and remotely starting the ignition, etc. OnStar already offers iPhone, Android and BlackBerry smartphone users its MyLink app, which gives real-time access to vehicle functions, from activating horn and lights (to locate your vehicle in a parking lot) to asking for roadside assistance. You can also view real-time reports on fuel range, gallons of gas remaining, average miles per gallon, current mileage, remaining oil life and current tire pressure.
New smartphone apps from third-party developers are also appearing for everything from infotainment (music/video) to driver behavior monitoring, such as drowsy alarms. Many of these apps will also be integrated with the existing on-board telematics systems—such as Apple’s iPod Out and Nokia’s Terminal Mode—allowing users to display and control smartphone information on a vehicle’s displays. In this way, drivers do not divert their eyes from the dashboard therefore creating a safer driving environment.
Voice commands – powered by Nuance technology – allow users to control phone functionality, radio stations and MP3 players through a natural language system, while Gracenote pulls in track listings and album art, Pandora, Stitcher and XM stream the tunes, and a standard rear-vision camera (on the Terrain) lets you keep tabs on what’s coming up from behind. Better iPhone and Android integration through a combination of USB and Bluetooth control is part of the package, and buyers of the youth-focused Verano will get IntelliLink as standard at first, with the system coming to the Regal and LaCrosse later this year.
One doesn’t need a smartphone to benefit from IntelliLink. The system works with a Bluetooth-enabled cell phone, USB flash drive or digital audio player. Even without a mobile device, GMC owners will benefit from IntelliLink’s enhanced voice recognition technology and OnStar’s on-screen turn-by-turn directions.
As the worlds of the automotive industries and smartphone technologies collide, the days of customizing a vehicle are abounding with possiblities. To see what GM models have the IntelliLink capabilities follow this link.