August 19, 2022

Building apps with connected car data

Winona Rajamohan

Content Marketing Manager

How has car data changed how we use our vehicles? Many of us now expect software-powered convenience in our vehicles. In fact, more than 60% of surveyed US drivers want connected car capabilities for safety and navigation, followed by on-demand functions, vehicle management, and comfort.

📝 In this blog, we’re diving into four lessons we learned while helping mobility businesses build apps with connected car data:

  1. Lesson 1: Everyone is trying something new
  2. Lesson 2: The winner doesn't take all (the data)
  3. Lesson 3: Cool new things can be scary
  4. Lesson 4: Data's best friend? A good human experience

Connected car data is produced by vehicles equipped with embedded telematics. This technology allows them to connect to the internet through a 4G or 5G cellular modem. With data obtained via embedded telematics, drivers can access a car manufacturer's mobile app to check their car's location, lock and unlock it, preheat the car, and get notified when they're low on gas or need to charge their EVs —all directly from their phone.

How is connected car data used in apps?

An app can use car data to help start your car rental business with personal vehicles that aren’t in use. Turo does this today with access to location data and the ability to lock and unlock car doors remotely. You can use EV battery and charging data to optimize your EV charging schedules with utility rates or low-emission hours on the grid. Mileage data from connected cars can also be used by insurance companies and partners to price auto insurance premiums accurately.

But spoiler alert: everything new and different must be approached with care.

As a developer platform for connected cars, our goal is to enable apps to do great things while protecting drivers' autonomy over their connected car data.

Apps use the Smartcar platform to retrieve a variety of car data, like:

  • Location: Retrieve the geographic coordinates of a car’s last known location.
  • Mileage: Verify a vehicle’s exact odometer reading.
  • EV battery: Check an electric vehicle’s state of charge and confirm whether it is currently charging.
  • Fuel tank level: Know how much fuel remains in a gas vehicle’s tank.
  • Tire pressure & engine oil life: Read the tire pressure and the remaining engine oil life of a vehicle.

🛠 What's the best connected car data strategy for you?

We created a free guide to help you determine if your app will benefit from using a platform like Smartcar, what the average resource expenditure is for building vehicle integrations from scratch, and how to evaluate connected car API vendor

👉 Get your copy of the guide

The Smartcar Customer Success team has had the privilege of working alongside many innovative mobility apps that believe in using car data the right way.

Here are a few lessons we learned while helping our customers launch great apps for drivers who want to experience the benefits of connected car data:

Lesson 1: Everyone is trying something new

Mobility technology is growing fast. Over 120 billion VC dollars went to mobility tech in the first quarter of 2022 alone, across sectors like autonomous driving software, electric vehicles, and ride-hailing.

This means a highly competitive market and a race to get solutions in people’s hands first. The apps that can fully provide drivers with a memorable experience are the ones that can future-proof their business against sudden change.

Adapting your solution to new market shifts means giving your data architecture the tools to:

(a) Keep up with what drivers actually want — like new vehicle models tearing up sales charts (think Hyundai and Kia’s EV emergence) or new opportunities born out of unprecedented situations (think the rise of pay-per-mile insurance and the surge of web3 over the past two years).

(b) Set developers up for success — let your team of experts focus on building cool and interesting things at the top of the priority list. Our friends at DIMO are focusing their efforts on user-owned networks of mobility data. We support their mission by helping them reach as many users as possible.

It’s hard to fire on both these cylinders with a disconnected stack of vehicle integrations taking up your developer’s time. Connected car data can be agile, but it takes a dedicated team to put all the right measures in place.

This leads us to our next point…

Lesson 2: The winner doesn’t take all (the data)

Despite the massive opportunity of connected car data, half of consumers are still held back by the fear of having personal data exposed and stored without permission.

We can’t speak for the commitments of data marketplaces, but we’ve been firm in our stance that the best products do not come at the cost of consumer privacy.

Drivers deserve to know exactly what data they share with their favorite apps. These apps are the ones that add the most value to their day-to-day transportation, a voluntary choice made typically made after researching various options. How an app handles car data privacy plays a big role in decision-making.

We believe there are a few things to prioritize as a winner in this space:

💬  Upfront data permissions: One of your customer’s first questions will be “what do they have access to?” Don’t hide your answer in fine print or behind complicated legal language. Show them the truth in clear and clean UI so they can feel more sure about the consent they’re providing.

🔐  Dedicated API security: If you’re building your connected car APIs, you must develop security components like API token management and OAuth 2.0 flows. Then there’s the compliance certifications, penetration testing, and continuous network monitoring. You’ll need a dedicated team of API experts to maintain comprehensive integrations that cover all security bases.

🤝  Collaboration with like-minded partners: We call it a ‘mobility ecosystem’ because many apps and organizations work together to advance shared goals — take the EV managed charging industry as a perfect example. As you expand your app to serve more drivers and use cases, choose partners who prioritize the same values as you (you might even find one from our community of customers!).

Lesson 3: Cool new things can be scary

Connected car data is a relatively new chapter of car history. Without trust, it’s hard for most people to get behind it — especially in an environment where data is seen as a tool for commercial manipulation.

What does building trust in innovation look like? Let’s turn to the payment processing industry for a recent example.

The explosive growth of e-commerce highlighted a major problem: it was hard for most businesses to build secure integrations with banks and credit card providers.

Businesses had to work with fragmented technical documentation, understand banking best practices, and keep their systems compliant with industry standards like Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard. That’s where industry giants like Stripe stepped into the picture.

The same API evolution is happening in mobility.

By 2030, 96% of vehicles will have built-in internet connectivity.

Stripe used their API expertise to build infrastructure in compliance with the needs of most financial institutions, use cases, and regulations. Whether it was a small business or a Shopify or a Peloton, customers could put their trust in digitized payment systems, even if it was at a business that they’ve never shopped at before.

Mobility developers need the same support to build multi-brand vehicle integrations optimized for car data security and OEM nuances.

Lesson 4: Data’s best friend? A good human experience

Let’s not forget that connectivity isn’t just about data, it’s about people.

Although 87% of business leaders feel like their customers trust them, only 30% of customers actually do. Why?

Customers are often locked into innovative products and services that feel transactional and unresponsive.

If you’re offering drivers convenience, you need a strong foundation for navigating situations when a customer’s convenience is challenged. This includes API errors, data quality, and support requests specific to their vehicle’s connectivity.

Working with API partners lets you create a collaborative system for maintaining post-sales quality and support. Communicate your standards and expectations so you can give customers a clear indication of when they can expect to receive proper guidance.

Smartcar’s Enterprise customers maintain integration success by aligning us with their goals and targets — that’s why we’re prepared to hop on a call with their users and answer questions beyond the scope of an email.

Connected car data is powerful when managed right

When we think about data-driven mobility, we think about innovators — both emerging and existing players — working together to establish an ecosystem of connected, sustainable mobility.

We’re proud to work with apps that build great relationships with their customers through a shared vision of better mobility systems.

Over the coming weeks, we’re excited to give you a peek at more important reminders we tell customers, like how to communicate with vehicle owners, choosing the right times to retrieve data from vehicles and more.

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