Are App Stores for Cars On the Way?

Sure there’s an app for nearly everything and, at the rate things are going, there soon will be an app for absolutely everything.

Lexus in-dash navigation systemAs we’ve seen them proliferate for various technologies, it seems almost natural that an app store or marketplace for automobiles would soon appear. And as fate would have it, Toyota and Microsoft — two of the largest companies in the automobile and software industries respectively — have teamed up to create just that. They recently announced they’ll create a global network that sits on top of Microsoft’s Azure cloud-computing platform, and that it will host not only applications built by Toyota and Microsoft but potentially ones built by third-party sources as well.

While similar in nature to GM’s OnStar system, where cars can be remotely monitored and controlled, the major difference here is the potential for third-party applications, much in the way that Apple and Google have structured their app stores for their mobile OSes.

One of the major reasons for this push by Toyota (and other automobile manufacturers) is the need for electric and hybrid vehicles to communicate efficiently with power grids. The first cars to use this new technology will be the RAV4 EV and the plug-in Prius. Consider the problem of how to efficiently recharge a vehicle at the lowest possible electricity rates.

Other auto manufacturers are hardly sitting idly by. Both GM and BMW are working on apps themselves. Of course, we’re going to see another fragmented app and OS market, just like the aforementioned mobile OS market.

Imagine being able to download an app to your car that does many of the same things that your smartphone does today. Of course, this opens up a new can of (technology-bred) worms, in that the debate about electronic device usage in cars will no longer be relegated mainly to smartphones — but to the cars themselves as well.

Image courtesy of Enigma3542002 and used under the GNU Free Documentation License.