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Jun 17, 2014 Driving Business with Driving Apps

Apple and Google are racing to deliver car dashboard experiences. Apple’s in the lead, with CarPlay expected to deliver iOS apps to U.S. drivers of certain Ferrari, Honda, Hyundai, Mercedes-Benz, and Volvo models by year’s end. Google is tailing with a similar Android-based set-up.

CarPlay will make it possible for drivers to operate certain apps by tapping a steering wheel button, voice command, or swiping a dashboard display screen. We anticipate Google’s platform being similar.

Creating apps for use through CarPlay will leverage the standard iOS development kit. Now’s the time to start exploring the opportunities for your mobile/Web strategy. Here are some considerations, followed by an example of what a useful driver’s app might look like:

  • The user experience needs to pay particular attention to ensuring apps are safe for use by drivers. For example, dashboards should represent strict at-a-glance design sensibilities, so your app should follow through on this with a minimal amount of interaction combined with large, easy to read typography and iconography.
  • Installing the hardware needed to operate CarPlay into cars that are already in use won’t come cheap. Estimates range from $900 to $1,500. So, at least for now, you’ll want to leverage this platform mostly for apps targeted to the well-heeled or to niche audiences.
  • Count on drivers’ smartphones losing their cellular connection from time to time, so be sure that your apps are architected to fail gracefully when no cellular data is available.
  • CarPlay functionality can be baked into existing apps – no need for a separate app to get data onto a dashboard screen, though that’s still an option.

Example: Envision a Traffic App that knows when you’re heading to work or home, can seamlessly consider traffic conditions and weather, and then tell one thing only: what route to take, in large easy-to-read words, like:

Take the BQE, use Tillary St. exit
or
Take the Golden Gate Bridge

Given that a majority of commuters know the general routes available to them, the app would ideally not give step-by-step directions—too distracting—but deliver just enough information, based on current conditions, to make sense to the driver. Additionally, should the driver need to re-route for any reason, a large “alternate route” button would be the only interactive UI available on their dashboard screen, which would re-evaluate current location against latest conditions to provide an alternate route.