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What's driving APIs in Automotive?

By Alan Glickenhouse posted Fri October 31, 2014 03:30 AM

Millions of lines of code moving at 60 MPH! The fastest growing aspects in the automotive industry are all about putting intelligence in the car. Accessing that intelligence is all about APIs. The Connected Car topic probably deserves a post by itself and I might do that down the road (pun intended). Today I’ll introduce a few aspects of connected cars, but also cover more generally APIs that might make sense for the Automotive Industry now and in the future.  Once again I’ll use the structure I introduced a few weeks ago (here).


Mobile App Development – What are the common use cases for Automotive APIs being used in Mobile App development?

  • Many APIs match those in the retail industry – product catalog, product detail, etc. In addition APIs for available accessories, incentives, owner’s manual information, and service locations could be provided. Looking at auto dealerships, APIs for location, available inventory, and prices are sample APIs.

  • Custom APIs that map your specific vehicle to required service, recalls, or trade in value are also good candidates for APIs.

  • Mobile advantages – APIs that unlock the car door or start the car are typical examples where mobile Apps might access APIs. However, these need to be secured so locked out that only the owner of the car can access the APIs to perform these functions on the car. Direct calls from the mobile App to car APIs might be hacked leading to theft or potential danger. So, authenticating the user is critical.


What APIs are available today in the Automotive Industry? Here are just a few samples of public APIs:

  • Dash Chassis API - is a connected car platform providing access to fuel consumption, expenses, and efficiency data. It also offers driving statistics and data, route information, and provides real time alerts.

  • VIN Decoder - will return manufacturer data including: Manufacturer, manufacturer address, product type, make, check digit, model year, plant code, and sequential number, as well as data from police data bases.

  • GM Developer APIs - supports unlocking doors or activating the alarm, and accessing subscriber or vehicle data.

  • Ford API - offers a developer program for developers to create voice-activated applications to be integrated into vehicle technology.

  • Kelly Blue Book InfoDriver API - syndicates data about car models, features, and selling prices from the provider's extensive database covering both new and used cars across the full range of makes and models and across North American markets. Methods provide projected car values at levels for suggested dealer price, used car trade-in transactions, and private party sales. The API includes access to a VIN decoder to determine a specific car's equipment level.

Besides creating Mobile Apps, there are many other areas where APIs can provide value for the Auto Industry.

hands free Partnering – Many automotive parts including radio, navigation, phone integration, entertainment systems and safety capabilities such as lane warning systems, close vehicle alerts, etc. are supplied by partners. These partners need to access auto APIs to integrate with the car activity and the partner offerings themselves will provide APIs for hands free controls to improve safety. All these add value to the car and generate revenue to both the auto manufacturer and the partner.


Public APIs – Car purchasing is extremely competitive. Apps from Cars.com, Truecar, Autotrader, KBB, Edmunds and many others enable buyers to compare cars from buy a carmultiple manufacturers and enable a better buying experience. All would benefit by accessing public APIs to obtain car offerings and detail, accessories, prices, reviews, etc. as possible APIs to allow manufacturers to compete for your business using these tools.


text and drive  Social / Big Data Analytics – Social activity doesn’t stop when we get in a car – unfortunately. Providing safer ability to be social is a key focus of the auto industry. Manufacturers and feature suppliers are working on APIs to allow vocal commands to access or control various aspects of the car to enable texts, phone access, and other functions.


Social media itself is a valuable resource for auto manufacturers. Reviews, comments, etc. on social media provide feedback and possible marketing opportunities for car sales.

Connected Car – By 2020, 90% of cars are expected to feature built-in connectivity, up from just 10% today with an estimated 210 million connected cars hitting the road over the next few years. This is transforming the relationship between car owners and manufacturers beyond the driving experience. Examples of APIs for a Connected Car include roadside assistance, concierge services, crash notification, vehicle remote services, pay-per-drive rental, road condition awareness, parking space availability, data for insurance providers, and improved fleet management.


Data Assets – Cars can provide valuable data for marketing or opportunities for other industries. Car data can identify travel routes which can be accessed via APIs and be valuable for advertising by businesses along or near the route. APIs to advertise offerings to the driver looking for nearby restaurants or activities could be monetized. Also driving behavior would be valuable to insurance companies and could be monetized.


Connect with me through comments here or via twitter @Arglick to continue the discussion.  You can also read my earlier blogs.




Thu March 07, 2019 11:33 PM

I ended up using the VIN Decoder API mentioned here for my hackathon project a few weeks ago along with Smartcar's Car API to unlock the doors to cars. https://smartcar.com/docs/api#introduction

(I built a parcel delivery service prototype!!!)

Thu January 24, 2019 01:12 PM

Thank you for the kind words. You can find the content for any author by clicking on their name. It will bring you to a list of their articles (most current first). Here is the url for my content - https://developer.ibm.com/apiconnect/author/glick/

Thu January 24, 2019 03:48 AM

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Good luck for the following!

Wed September 26, 2018 11:08 PM

You can also check out the Smartcar APIs, which are also public and allow mobile and web apps to pull data directly from the car *without the hardware*

Wed September 19, 2018 01:59 PM

Absolute Results, that's true. I would add the fact that autonomous cars are approaching their prime time will also add to the api expansion. But isn't that a bit frightening ?

Wed June 13, 2018 10:56 AM

yeah, i do believe that's one of the major reasons for entering the automotive niche.

Tue May 22, 2018 08:56 PM

Automotive APIs will increase in significant ways with infotainment and connectivity growing

Mon May 14, 2018 08:05 AM

That's by far the most comprehensive article about using APIs in the automotive industry. APIs are pretty helpful when in comes to vehicle-related businesses like Insurance companies, Car Parts shops, Parking projects - the APi can give you all the information you need and all you have to do is to integrate it.

Wed December 07, 2016 03:42 PM

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[…] may also be interested on further information regarding several others Connected car API initiatives mixed with relevant informations about What’s driving APIs in […]