Of all the next-level frontiers in technology, the car is perhaps the one to which developers pay the least amount of attention. While Apple and Google make stabs at in-car platforms (CarPlay and Android Auto, respectively), “Big Auto” still controls its own stack, and tends not to play nice with outsiders. GM is trying to change that.
Dev Client is a new offering that allows developers to branch out from their IDEs and into an actual car. After writing apps using GM’s SDK, developers will be able to test those apps in their own vehicles. “By introducing GM Dev Client, we’re giving developers the missing link they need to finalize their applications,” said John McFarland, director of Global Digital Experience. “GM Dev Client will help us and external developers make sure the best in-vehicle apps are ultimately made available in GM vehicles, ensuring the best customer experience for drivers.”
Released in January of this year, GM’s NGI SDK creates faux vehicle data meant for testing. “Sharing more emulated data points through the SDK than any other automaker was the first step in opening the door for developers,” said Kent Helfrich, executive director of Connected Ecosystem Integration, General Motors. “After such strong adoption of the SDK, we wanted to enable developers to take the next step and allow real-world testing in our vehicles.” Prior to its introduction, developers had to make trips to GM’s Detroit facility in order to test software on infotainment modules. GM says that by the end of 2017, the NGI SDK will have a “templated framework,” including media player and points-of-interest layouts.
Through its SDK, GM also offers the same APIs that can be accessed in-vehicle. That includes things like telemetry for directional assistance, ‘hard braking’ for monitoring driver performance, and ‘SmartGrid’ to feed drivers information on where and when to charge their electric vehicles based on how the electrical grid in their area is performing.
GM’s move comes as Apple works on its own in-car system focused on automation. Still very much in development, Apple’s move is believed to be one meant to usurp existing in-car platforms like GM’s. It’s possible GM is just staving off the inevitable. Equally possible is that GM has a better platform that developers can tap into right now. That would give it a strong lead when Apple finally shows up, which is when many believe the connected car will start getting the attention it deserves.