Automotive Software Development - Where Cars Meet IT?
19 October 2023
Table of Contents
While cars were a technological miracle at first, the time of cars being purely mechanical devices is long gone. With the development of computers and software, electronic devices were at first complimentary for cars. Automotive companies started incorporating technology with GPS devices - portable, small computers attached to the car's windshield. They evolved into on-board computers that monitored the car's functions and could also work as a radio or GPS map tracker. They were later connected to parking cameras and motion trackers. The automotive industry quickly recognized the potential of incorporating software development into the automotive sector and the solutions it offers for its customers.
That's why automotive software development became so important. The software became inseparable from the car's functioning but also became a convenient way of implementing useful and beneficial features.
Let's explore the possibilities of automotive technology and its unlimited potential.
Types of apps in automotive software
While automotive software technology is still developing new outcomes, for now, we'll divide it into several different categories concerning their use in the automotive industry.
Auto system apps - These are provided mainly by automotive companies and used for checking the car's localization, remotely locking and unlocking doors, and finding car stats. New vehicles are pushing automotive software quality standards further, introducing new technology for improving the driving experience.
Gas station apps - These contain loyalty cards, make remote paying or station tracking possible, and preserve a digital copy of receipts. The clients welcomed this solution, which became a part of automotive industry applications.
Repair station apps - Repair stations also enable digital loyalty cards, repair station maps, and offer remote paying, they can also contain information regarding car parts and tire marketplaces or advise on minor repairs.
Car marketplace apps - On car marketplace apps, you can sell or purchase a new or used vehicle as well as tires, car parts, or any decoration to make your car more "yours." Compared to other industries' marketplaces, the amount of detailed filters to find a perfect vehicle stands out in these apps.
Car condition scan apps - After connecting your mobile device to your digital cockpit, these apps can quickly check their condition. This app is used widely with electric cars to check the condition of electric batteries or other components.
Automotive software development processes and evolves quickly, and new ways of implementing software into vehicles are constantly being found. Automotive software shows a potential to support far more innovative products than it's already integrated with and can improve the driving experience tremendously. Development also consists of merging automotive systems with Artificial Intelligence, but AI’s capabilities are still unknown, and it still provides significant risks for the drivers. However, the latest research and continuous improvement of machine learning has made developing software that will facilitate autonomous driving very soon.
Where the machine and software connect - combining vehicles with apps
Until a few years ago, electric cars and automotive software were only science-fiction concepts known from movies. However, the last few years are starting to show that we can witness cars without drivers even faster than we initially thought. A few big projects have already demonstrated that sci-fi car technology is nearer than we thought.
Tesla introduced a dedicated mobile app with the debut of their first cars. It was a true digital transformation for the automotive industry. The app contains several different features that make operating the car more smooth. You can pre-heat or pre-cool the vehicle while it's still standing in the garage, lock and unlock the doors from afar, locate the car, or even park it or summon it from a garage or a tight parking spot with the help of autopilot. These features, not available in other car brands, make this car app genuinely unique among the competition, and its solutions quickly became one of the industry standards for automotive software.
Project Titan is the official name of the development of a vehicle by Apple. Work is estimated to have begun around 2014 when rumors of Apple's plans to build an electric car first surfaced. After several years, information about Apple’s acquisition of Drive.AI startup came to light; the prototype is finally set to be shown in 2026. Firstly, the vehicle was rumored to be fully autonomous, without the need for the driver's attention to drive the car. Now, the vehicle is said to be driven by a driver, but with the ability to switch to autopilot for US highways.
Android Car is an assistant app connecting to an on-board computer via any mobile device. With the help of Google Assistant, you can call someone while driving without using your hands or set up Google Maps GPS tracking just with your voice. Android Car also allows you to dictate a message and send an SMS with voice commands. This app works on several mobile devices and is compatible with different car brands and models.
The most popular automotive apps
Let's take a look at the apps that were most downloaded from both the Google Play Store and the App Store.
Chevron - Chevron is an app made by a US gas station brand that allows the storage of digital loyalty cards and checks gas station localizations and prices. It also allows fast payment for the gas.
Cars.com - This is a popular marketplace for purchasing new and used vehicles as well as tires and car parts.
ParkMobile - This app is widely used in the US for finding parking places and public garages.
Toyota - With this app, you can control your car remotely with a dedicated automotive system. The app allows, among other features, to check the location of a vehicle, lock the car with a finger tap, and remind you of your service appointments.
AutoZone - This is a dedicated car parts marketplace, which also helps you to find the nearest mechanic.
CarMax - CarMax is a popular marketplace for purchasing new and used vehicles, but also tires and car parts.
MyToyota - With this brand-dedicated app, you can control your Toyota car remotely. With this app, you can lock and unlock your vehicle remotely and check its location. The app also checks your driving performance and provides advice on how to drive the car better.
Car Scanner ELM OBD2 - This is a perfect tool for car scanning that also enables on-board computer customization and sensor data checks. It is a helpful tool for anyone who wants complete control over their car!
GasBuddy - GasBuddy is a well-rated app that helps you find the nearest gas station, the features of a gas station, and the price of gas. It also offers the possibility of receipt tracking, which helps with reimbursements and taxes. The app also offers a loyalty program, which is very convenient for people unwilling to have multiple loyalty cards for numerous brands.
GoTime Repairs - This app lets you organize your time as a repair station. You can store your clients' data, car photos, and more, but the app also allows synchronization with email and SMS so you can update your clients about their car repair status. It helps you increase the productivity of your team but also simplifies parts management.
Car renting and car sharing
Another type of automotive software is apps that allow you to rent or share a car. This type of software is gaining demand due to its convenience, fast payments, and GPS tracking. Car renting app owners are also eager to merge their business idea with other branches of business for mutual growth and additional profits for both the businesses and the clients.
Apps like Uber or Bolt started purely as taxi-offering apps. However, after some time, they began to cleverly merge different types of services, with taxis still being the primary business. Whether it is food or flower delivery, electric scooter renting, or even parcel sending, since everything is still taxi-related and contained in one app, it's convenient for the clients to use. Automotive companies widely use business models that combine different services in one app.
Car sharing has become an excellent alternative for drivers who can't afford or have no parking place for their cars. Some brands have started offering large vehicles so that clients can conveniently shop in DIY or furniture stores. The concept is growing in Europe quickly, especially with the introduction of electric vehicles for car sharing.
Thanks to car renting apps, you can check, compare prices, book, and ultimately pay to rent a car. This way, the whole process is quicker and more client-friendly, which makes these apps more popular.
Drivers post where and when they are traveling and how many passengers they can take with them - this helps them split fuel costs and gives them company for long journeys!! It's also a quick alternative for people without cars who need to go to another place quicker than by train or bus.
Car maintenance apps
Another type of app connected to automotive software is car maintenance apps. While some of the features are introduced in brand-dedicated apps, some can present additional value that branded software doesn't introduce.
Car insurance apps compare different insurance offers, calculate insurance costs, enable fast payment, and set reminders to help keep your car insured at all times.
These apps remind you of the car review date and help you find the closest and the best mechanics on the map. Some of them also accept fast payments for the review.
Especially useful when considering the purchase of a used car, these apps can check the history of a vehicle to identify accidents, repairs, or anything you need to verify the car's condition.
The future of cars or cars of the future?
Autonomous driving was, for a long time, only a science-fiction concept and a dream of every big car company. The first experiments in constructing a self-driving car were undertaken in the 1920s. After many years of trials, Tsukuba Mechanical Engineering Laboratory presented the first semi-automatic car in Japan in 1977. It could drive 30km/h and was equipped with two cameras that used analog computer technology for signal processing. It couldn't be used by a person, though.
The development of autonomous cars has accelerated in the last 20-30 years, with the dynamic growth of Artificial Intelligence and its extended understanding. Automotive industries are also closely watching this digital transformation, and are ready to implement it in their automotive development.
Automotive software development enables the construction of fully autonomous vehicles for food or medication delivery that are now famous in the US and slowly approaching European cities. Startups like Starship became highly recognizable thanks to their little robots who tirelessly deliver any necessities. They're connected to the Internet to identify the most efficient route and use built-in cameras to avoid passers-by or other obstacles.
In the last few years, some companies have been able to obtain a license for transporting humans - with Waymo and Cruise leading in the US and DeepRoute.AI and Dongfeng Motors in China. In August 2023, a company called Nuro obtained a license for Level 4 cars, meaning that no driver attention is required for the vehicle to drive, although self-driving is supported only in specific areas. When facing trouble, the vehicle would safely stop and park rather than make a decision.
Autonomous cars will become a thing in the next few years, and we're excited to see what they will become.
Cars and software are made for each other. They complement each other in many different ways. That's why automotive software development is so important, especially with the dynamic development of AI. If you need automotive software development services or want to build an app for your own automotive business, reach out to us - we'll be happy to assist!
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