Car APIs: Why Every Car Needs An API?

By | November 25, 2016
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Last month, a study revealed that 1 out of every 10 cars worldwide has in-built smart connectivity features. The concept of ‘connected cars’ has been getting a lot of attention lately, with projections indicating that close to 90% of vehicles will have at least some form of smart connectivity within their systems by 2020. As the overall IoT ecosystem grows more advanced and smart cars become more and more commonplace, the focus is likely to shift from having custom apps to access a vehicle’s features to controlling each and every vehicle component with a software tool. That, in turn, brings to light the importance of application program interfaces (APIs) for cars. In what follows, we will have a look at the needs and purposes that an API can fulfill for a smart car:

  1. Accessing manufacturer data

    There is already a public API for that (VIN decoder). Right from the model number of a vehicle and its year of make, to the manufacturer contact details and registration number – everything becomes easily accessible for the car owner, with the help of a custom-built API. What’s more, since these data are likely to be fetched from police databases (or from the concerned automobile company itself), there is no cloud over the reliability of the information. With an interface like this, pulling out any specific manufacturer related data becomes a breeze.

  2. Locking/unlocking vehicle doors

    One of the most basic (and also, most important) remote functions that can be performed by a car API. With an iPhone/Android app powered by this type of API, a driver can activate central locking in his/her car, as well as unlock the car’s doors, whenever required. Obviously, the user has to be wary of probable security issues - and perform the door lock/unlock ONLY when (s)he can actually see the car. API providers also have to make sure that the software cannot be hacked into.

  3. Getting all dealer details

    A car-owner might require certain dealership information at any time…at the time of routine maintenance, or estimating the resale price (from the dealer). Mobile app developers can display such information on an application, by using an API that can fetch the required data quickly and reliably. Apart from the name of the dealer and the price information, the car-owner can also check out other cars available for sale (by the same dealer). Reviews and ratings on a particular car model can also be viewed.

Note: For keeping track of the pricing of a car on a real-time basis, there already exist APIs (by Edmunds.com).

  1. Checking trip stats

    How about being able to check the statistics of all the trips taken by your car – on a single screen? A customized mobile app can indeed deliver such stats, once again with the help of APIs built for this purpose. In addition, an API can also call and fetch all the places (destinations) that a car has been driven to till date. To gauge the performance of a vehicle over time, these metrics are extremely important – and with car APIs, they are literally available at the fingertips of car owners.

  2. Smarter purchase decisions

    That’s right, a mobile app with an information-rich backend can help individuals arrive at more informed vehicle-purchase decisions as well. There are some public APIs already available, that allow people to browse through the latest cars from multiple manufacturers (along with their respective specs) – facilitating easy comparison. Car accessories can be compared as well, and buyers can glance through the user-reviews that the competing car models have garnered. Based on all this, the concerned app can ensure a smoother car-purchase experience for the user.

  1. Value as a marketing tool for businesses

    There is no dearth of mobile navigation apps, backed up (in most cases) by the Google Maps API. On-demand cab apps also work with the Maps API. Over the next few years, car APIs is likely to be used as powerful marketing/promotional tools as well. With the help of an API, the route of any vehicle can be accessed instantly – and advertisements of businesses along that route can be easily made visible to the driver (on the navigation app (s)he is using). There is an opportunity for monetizing the APIs that show information on nearby hotels and restaurants as well. It’s only a matter of time before businesses identify car APIs as a dynamic marketing channel and start using it.

  1. Climate Control activation

    This is yet another thing where custom-built REST APIs can help car app-makers in a big way. What’s more – the technology has ample scopes of improvement as well, since most similar interfaces currently available can set the temperature to the last value fixed by the user (and not automatically to any other specific value). The API will help the car to ‘learn’ the preferred in-vehicle temperatures, and adjust accordingly.

Note: The heating/cooling systems of a car, as well as its controls, can become remotely adjustable with APIs, to maintain the optimal climate control settings.

    8. Social activity with speech technology

Tapping on a phone while driving is neither safe, nor convenient. A considerable amount of research is already going on, for coming up with car APIs that will let drivers type out texts, talk on their phone, and even access their social media profiles – all with the help of voice commands. For the best performance, the speech recognition feature of the app has to be really good too. Comments, reviews and opinions about a car can also be published real-time (while driving) with a dedicated API. For automobile companies, there are marketing opportunities as well.

    9. Useful information on the move

In a nutshell, car APIs open the lid from the huge stack of information contained within a vehicle. For instance, if a smart car is running low on gas, the local fuel stations can be automatically alerted. Car insurance companies can access pertinent data on the general driving behaviour of users. Vehicle servicing agencies are notified as soon as the API detects that a car requires some maintenance/repair. It shouldn’t be long before we see all of these information (and probably much more!) being delivered by APIs on a regular basis. 10Capturing fuel performance data – With a question mark hanging over the fuel efficiency claims by most leading auto manufacturers, a third-party mobile app – supported by a car API – can be just the right type of vehicle performance indicator. Apart from driving stats and real-time tracking (and summary) of fuel consumption, the API platform can also display accurate fuel expenses, tabulated periodically. If required, driving routes can also be fetched. Driving Chassis API is a classic example of interfaces that can do these tasks.

     10. Car charging and headlights control 

The enhancements in performance efficiency that a car API can bring about are not limited to fuel-related data only. On a connected car platform, developers can set commands that would allow apps to schedule the ‘peak charging’ and the ‘off-peak/non charging’ times. Charging during an ‘off-peak setting’ is also possible on a customized interface. Also, a car API can used to switch on the headlights of a vehicle from the inside, or remotely. The duration for which the headlight remains switched on (in seconds) can be set as well.

     11. Integration of separate in-car systems

For establishing an interconnected smart car ecosystem, the role of car APIs is immense. An optimally designed connected car platform can integrate different types of in-car systems – from entertainment systems and car radios, to in-car safety tools, navigation guides and warnings (say, when another vehicle is very close) – in a manner that makes driving a safer, easier, and a more holistic experience than ever before. APIs that can perform such integration deliver value to the car-owner as well as the automobile manufacturers (by raising the overall car value).

Mobile app developers have every reason to be excited about the powerful features and controls that they can add to their applications with the help of public car APIs. All of the above tasks, and a lot more, can be performed with mobile app(s) – making things ‘smarter’ than ever for the individual car-owners. By the time 2020 rolls in, the total number of ‘connected cars’ will be in excess of 380 million – and most of them will be powered by car APIs, that’s for sure.

Hussain Fakhruddin
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Hussain Fakhruddin

Hussain Fakhruddin is the founder/CEO of Teknowledge mobile apps company. He heads a large team of app developers, and has overseen the creation of nearly 600 applications. Apart from app development, his interests include reading, traveling and online blogging.
Hussain Fakhruddin
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