GM plans to make app development easier
To speed the introduction of new infotainment features, General Motors is offering software developers an online kit to create new programs for its vehicles. GM, which made its announcement today at the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, says it hopes to roll out new infotainment applications in its 2014 models. Software developers will be allowed to download a new set of application programming interfaces, or APIs, to create new uses for GM's infotainment systems. To illustrate potential uses, the automaker demonstrated applications from four new software partners: The Weather Channel, Slacker, TuneIn and iHeart Radio. iHeart Radio allows motorists to tune in live radio broadcasts from the Clear Channel's network of 1,500 stations. Slacker Radio offers a choice of free music channels featuring content selected by disc jockeys, and TuneIn offers live radio channels featuring music, talk and sports. No distractions Software developers will submit their apps to GM for approval, a process that could be completed within three months or so. GM will ensure the app is safe and doesn't distract the driver, said Kathleen McMahon, GM's senior manager of infotainment program management. "GM is committed to making sure that vehicles can be driven safely," McMahon said. "Distracted driving is a serious issue." Company spokesman Scott Fosgard says that after GM OKs a new app, car owners will have the option of downloading it into their vehicles. Some apps will be free, while others might be available for a fee. GM is still sorting out that issue, he said. GM has planned to set up an online app store ever since it rolled out its first infotainment system, but implementation has been slow. Car buyers can download Pandora, an online music service; Stitcher, which supplies news and talk radio; and Gracenote, which provides information about music played in the vehicle. And that's about it. McMahon says the initiative announced today will speed things up because software developers will be allowed to use HTML5 Java Script, a widely used programming language. Some programs, like The Weather Channel or TuneIn, will simply be adaptations of apps already developed for smart phones or tablets. Others could be designed specifically for GM vehicles, McMahon said. For example, an app might help the motorist save fuel by analyzing the most efficient route to his destination.