Apps in car dashboards aim to make vehicles smarter

Reuters

Searching for that elusive parking spot or a nearby attraction? Forget about consulting your smartphone, just look at the car dashboard.

Whether it is streaming music and listening to audio books, or even ordering a pizza, apps are being loaded into vehicle dashboards as more cars become connected to the Internet.

Only about 10 percent of vehicles have built-in connectivity today, but the number is expected to rise to more than 90 percent by 2020, according to the British consulting firm Machina Research.

Drivers can use the Audible car app to download and listen to audio books in the car and the Kaliki car app reads news items. Pandora, TuneIn Radio, Spotify, iHeartRadio, Rhapsody, Stitcher, Slacker Radio, and iTunes Radio are among the many apps that stream music in vehicles.

And if someone is late for a meeting, they can try Glympse, which uses the car's GPS and driving speed to alert friends and family about the car's location and estimated arrival time.

"If you were to interview a random couple in a dealer's parking lot two years ago, their purchasing factors would be things like space, smoothness of the drive and mileage," said Bryan Trussel, chief executive officer of Seattle-based company Glympse.

"But looking forward two years, we'll see apps playing a much bigger part," he added.

The Parkopedia app can help drivers find parking spots, while the travel-related website Priceline has a simplified interface built for vehicles to help people find hotels while traveling.

If a driver is hungry and yearning for pizza, the Domino's Pizza app helps drivers order a pie with voice commands.

"Consumers got used to apps on their smartphones and now they're wondering why their cars can't have apps too," said Carl Howe, vice president of data sciences research at Boston-based Yankee Group, which focuses on mobile technology and connected devices.

Some car makers are launching their own app stores and technology companies are adapting commonly used apps for car dashboards that are safe to use while driving.

With Apple Inc's (Cupertino, CA, USA) new CarPlay, which integrates the iPhone with the car, drivers can use certain apps on the dashboard with Siri, the voice-enabled assistant, to view maps, make calls, listen to music and send and receive text messages.

Trussel and Howe said safety is a high priority for makers of dashboard apps, and some firms deactivate certain apps while a car is in motion.

"The interface really needs to be different on the car," said Trussel, adding the dashboard apps often respond to voice commands.

(Editing by Patricia Reaney and Marguerita Choy)

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