General Motors opens API for third party development

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This year’s Consumer Electronics Show was heavy with auto manufacturers and their new showcases of what are becoming electronic devices on wheels.  General Motors had a surprise, however, when they announced that their in-car infotainment system will open up to third party developers who want to make apps that can be run in the car’s system.

In a move that makes the car akin to a smart phone, GM has an application protocol interface (API) that developers can use to access both the car’s vehicle data (via OnStar) from a smart phone or device or have installed directly into the vehicle’s infotainment computer as an in-vehicle app for use in controlling the stereo, navigation, etc.

The apps will be able to access vehicles with specific infotainment options installed starting with vehicle model year 2014 (which will begin selling this fall).  Several big names in in-car audio entertainment are already on board, including iHeartRadio, TuneIn, Slacker, and others.

“There will be a category of apps that will be unique to our cars and very different from what people use today on their smartphones or tablets,” said GM Chief Infotainment Officer Phil Abram. “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.”

App developers can register with GM at, download information for the API, and submit apps for approval through the system.   Approved applications will appear in the upcoming App Catalog for GM vehicles, which will be accessible through select infotainment systems in 2014 model year vehicles.

For now, the system is available only in North America, but GM anticipates a global rollout next year.

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