December 19, 2019

How to remotely locate cars with the Smartcar location API

Charlotte Kosche

Sr. Content Writer

Like all web and mobile technology, mobility and car applications are becoming more and more powerful. Fleet management software makes it easy for fleet management companies to manage and maintain their vehicles. Auto insurance apps monitor their policyholders' mileage and driving behavior. Car sharing applications let customers browse and book vehicles directly from their phones.

In an effort to make their products work successfully, all of these apps and services make use of similar skills. They all need to instantly and reliably retrieve specific information from their customers’ vehicles.

The ability to remotely locate cars, for example, plays an important role for all car and mobility applications. Fleet management software businesses want to offer real-time GPS tracking to fleet owners. Car insurance companies need to track not only a policyholder’s mileage but also their vehicle’s location and the trips they make. Car sharing apps want to allow renters to quickly find and unlock vehicles directly from their phones.

Without a fast, safe, and reliable technology to locate vehicles, your fleet management, auto insurance, or car sharing app will lag behind the competition and eventually fail. This is why we’ve put together a guide on why APIs are the best tool to remotely locate vehicles, and how your application can use Smartcar’s location API to do so.

Using APIs to remotely locate cars

There are several different ways for web and mobile applications to retrieve a vehicle’s location. Some businesses use OBD-II dongles that customers install in their vehicles. Other businesses rely on their customers’ smartphones to obtain information about the vehicle and driving behavior.

The disadvantage of both, OBD-II dongles and smartphone solutions is that they can be difficult to install, inaccurate, and expensive. Fleet management software companies like Pitstop and car sharing platforms like Turo use the Smartcar API instead because APIs offer the best way to remotely locate vehicles. Here's why:

  • Easy to use: APIs provide friendly documentation and SDKs that make those solutions easy to integrate with. In addition to saving your engineering team time and hassle with the integration, your customers are able to onboard their car with just a few clicks from their phones. They no longer have to install any hardware in their vehicles.
  • Affordable: Most API products offer simple SaaS pricing that makes it easy to test, integrate, and scale the solution at your own pace. You no longer need to worry about hardware purchasing costs, shipping costs, or replacements in case customers break or lose their devices.
  • Instant: In contrast to other solutions, which take time to ship, activate, and receive data from, APIs are instant. Your customers can authorize their cars in less than 30 seconds. From here, all API requests you make will return real-time, live information directly from the vehicle.
  • Accurate and reliable: As car APIs communicate directly with each vehicle instead of going through a third-party hardware device or even a smartphone, APIs return the most accurate information on the market. No more inaccuracies due to incorrect interpretations of the start and end of trips, and no more reliability issues due to a hardware device that gets knocked out of place or a driver that turns off their smartphone.

Locating vehicles with the Smartcar location API

As APIs are the best solution to remotely locate vehicles, let us walk you through the steps of remotely locating cars using the Smartcar API.

Smartcar allows web and mobile applications to read information and perform actions on vehicles using straightforward API requests. In order to remotely locate a vehicle, your application needs to:

  1. Launch the Smartcar Connect flow, which prompts your customer to link their vehicle to your app.
  2. Have your customer log in with their vehicle’s username and password and agree to share their car’s location with your app.
  3. Start making API requests! When your application requests a vehicle’s location, the Smartcar API will return the car's exact location in geographic coordinates:

These three simple steps are all your application needs to retrieve a vehicle’s location in real-time. To learn more about getting started with the Smartcar API, head to our documentation or reach out to our team for a product demo.

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