How APIs are changing the automotive industry

Automobile manufacturers are pouring huge sums of money every year into the future of connected car technology.  With a strong emphasis on API-based integration, leaders in the automotive industry like General Motors and Ford are already incorporating embedded, tethered, and integrated connections into many of their vehicles.  Embedded automobiles rely on a built-in antenna and chipset combination while tethered connections engage with the car via smartphone technology. Integrated alternatives usually involve in-dashboard, brand name applications like Apple Car Play now available in the 2018 Honda Fit or the 2018 Hyundai Sonata.

Connected cars are so commonplace today that many consumers upon entering a dealership often assume that a late model vehicle automatically comes with built-in GPS navigation, dashboard controls for phone calls and text messages, and access to satellite radio like Spotify.  These are just a few of the must-have API systems, and as time moves forward, car buyers will be demanding more and more from their connected car technology.

If an automobile manufacturer wants to remain competitive in this fast-paced, ever-evolving world, they must be years ahead of the current trends.  By 2020, current research predicts that the connected car industry will reach over $141 billion in global revenue with a multitude of futuristic API-based features – and every automaker wants to make sure that they get the largest piece of the proverbial pie.

The Ford Motor Company and AppLink

Because the future of APIs is essentially unlimited, the always forward-thinking Ford Motor Company is now incorporating AppLink technology which allows the integration of mobile apps on the driver’s smartphone with the Human-Machine Interface (HMI) of the connected vehicle.  As the technology advances and developers continue writing new or updated mobile apps, the driver can easily interact with them by using standard OEM features, including the following.

  • Steering wheel buttons
  • Dashboard or console touchscreens
  • Voice recognition software
  • Built-in facial emotion detection

General Motors and Next Generation Infotainment (NGI)

General Motors is pushing the boundaries of API-based technology even further.  Drivers today want their connected cars to have many of the comforts of home.  In the case of GM, the result is the Next Generation Infotainment system, or NGI, which provides developers with a massive collection of tools for creating API-connected mobile apps.  A partial list of NGI’s premium features package includes the following.

  • 8-inch diagonal touchscreen display
  • In-dashboard GPS navigational system
  • Access to over 350 vehicle data points
  • Accelerator, steering, and orientation inputs and statistics
  • Audio streaming of multiple formats

Toyota and the Mobility Services Platform (MSPF)

As smart cities continue to develop and expand, car sharing is going to become much more appealing than it is currently.  Instead of having to pay monthly car payments, maintenance costs, and insurance premiums, citizens of the future will rely on a multitude of public transportation options for their day-to-day travel and simply share or “rent” a neighbour’s vehicle for those longer excursions.  Toyota is planning ahead for the days when car sharing is the norm rather than the exception (as you can see in the feature image above, which is Toyota’s vision of the future).  Its innovative Mobility Services Platform is the collaborative brainchild of the Toyota Company and Servco Pacific, providing the following functions.

  • Payment processing applications
  • Driver authentication API-based technology
  • Remote unlocking of vehicles using smartphone technology
  • Fleet management services for multi-vehicle providers
  • Flexible and easy integration of additional mobile applications and features at any time

Mobility as a Service (MaaS) via API-connected cars

Expanding on the Toyota MSPF example, API systems provide state-of-the-art interactive services for not only the drivers, but for car dealers, importers, insurance providers, and other third-party companies.  For example, in 2017 BMW partnered with IBM to create the cloud-connected CarData platform involving MaaS applications that transmit important driving statistics to authorised third-parties like repair shops and insurance companies.   By monitoring everything from fuel consumption to mileage, tire pressure, and even those silly little dashboard “check engine” lights that drivers so often ignore, car owners can prevent breakdowns, get better deals on car insurance, and save money on gas, too. The safety and cost-saving opportunities are endless.

The future of API systems for the automobile industry

With all the touchscreens, video displays, and other colorful gadgetry, cloud-connected cars are here to stay.  Parents can now keep their kids entertained during long road trips by simply streaming a movie or cartoon via a backseat video screen.  Drivers are no longer restricted to only local radio stations because API-based entertainment systems make available thousands upon thousands of radio stations from around the world with the touch of a finger.

However, the primary objective of any automobile designer or manufacturer should always be safety.  As the number of API-connected features continues to grow, many transportation experts fear that the potential for distraction while driving may become a significant safety concern.  As connected cars continue to evolve, consumers can expect their API-linked communication with these mobile apps to take place through voice or natural language technology.  From there, the next step will be cloud-connected automobiles that converse with the driver in real time.  Conversation APIs will not merely provide a robotic response filled with statistics and data.  They will provide real answers to real questions using natural language that is clear and makes sense.


Image courtesy of Toyota