The plug-in, all-electric Chevy Volt was a highlight of CES - along with an iPhone app that allows smartphone owners to interact with the car. OnStar Mobile app is the latest in a series of next gen auto apps that give users control over their cars from their mobile devices.
OnStar Mobile App checks such maintenance items as the battery charge and range, lifetime miles-per-gallon and lets users customize temperature settings. It also lets them recharge the battery remotely - a big selling point for consumers that would be driving these novel vehicles.
This new type of app, in some cases, can stand in for the expensive, pre-installed systems that also provide remote access. Previously OnStar users could only unlock their cars, if they had lost their keys, from the company's service center.
OnStar appears to be leading the charge with its range of features, but following closely are such manufacturers as Mercedes-Benz and Ford, both of which are roll out new apps for their own cars (via MSNBC).
Ford is planning to roll out iPhone apps that send navigation instructions from a leading car to the car behind it so that the follower doesn't get lost if they're separated by traffic or stoplights. Another app will let drivers command an iPhone to select among internet radio stations using the Sync voice recognition system, allowing the driver to keep looking at the road.
Mercedes-Benz and Hughes Telematics are working on a service app that will let drivers manage streaming music, locate points of interest or reply to e-mail, all by voice control. Both Mercedes-Benz and Ford will create their own app stores for mobile applications that run in its cars.
A Different Approach
Auto manufacturers are not the only industry targeting auto apps. Last month Nationwide Insurance introduced an iPhone app called Cartopia, designed to help consumers shop for new and used cars by providing information on safety, pricing, trade-in value, a monthly payment calculator and quotes on loans.
Other features let users locate cars by dealerships and then take notes and photograph cars they are considering purchasing.
The point for Nationwide was to target prospective users as they made their decision. (via DM News). "Our strategy was to create a very practical iPhone app for anyone buying a new or used car," said Sue McManus, associate VP of interactive marketing for Nationwide. "We know that when anyone is shopping for a used car, their next step is an auto loan and auto insurance. We are giving a brand experience earlier in the process, which we think will put our name top of mind early on."
To promote the Cartopia application, Nationwide is running display ads online and on mobile web car shopping Web sites.