In-car apps more than just maps

Smart­phone ap­pli­ca­tions en­hance user ex­pe­ri­ences

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - MOTORING - By XU XIAO xux­iao@chi­

Now that Xu Weilun has dis­cov­ered nav­i­ga­tion apps, he has a hard time imag­in­ing how he ever lived with­out them, said Xu, an ed­i­tor from Bei­jing’s Le­gal Daily news­pa­per.

When he took wed­ding pic­tures in the coastal Hainan prov­ince this Au­gust, he and his wife rented a car from a lo­cal deal­er­ship and re­lied on nav­i­ga­tion apps for ev­ery trip.

“The sug­gested routes given by an nav­i­ga­tion app called ‘Gaode’ are con­ve­nient and con­tain few er­rors, even in a place I’ve never been to be­fore,” Xu said.

“It only made one mis­take that nearly led us to the sea,” he re­called.

Xu has been closely watch­ing au­to­mo­tive apps that can make life eas­ier.

Some apps are for in­quir­ing to see if one has vi­o­lated traf­fic rules while oth­ers cal­cu­late fuel con­sump­tion or aid in fil­ing in­surance claims.

As grow­ing num­bers of Chi­nese peo­ple get be­hind the wheel, au­to­mo­tive apps are exploding in pop­u­lar­ity.

A search for “au­to­mo­tive apps” on iPhone’s app store re­veals more than 100 re­sults.

These apps can be clas­si­fied into four cat­e­gories.

The first is for car use and main­te­nance like nav­i­ga­tion, traf­fic rule vi­o­la­tions, and fuel con­sump­tion record as well as car in­surance cal­cu­la­tion.

For ex­am­ple, an app named “car but­ler” en­ables users make a record of ev­ery re­fuel and the price, and then it can au­to­mat­i­cally fig­ure out the

I use apps to look for car model statis­tics, check prices and watch for new ar­rivals. I also use nav­i­ga­tion apps, but not of­ten. Some­times I’d ques­tion their se­cu­rity. I’m afraid my pri­vacy will not get pro­tected.” LIANG YU BIOTECH­NOL­OGY EN­GI­NEER

car’s av­er­age fuel con­sump­tion.

Apps from car­mak­ers

Some car­mak­ers also pro­vide their own cus­tom apps for car use and main­te­nance.

For in­stance, MyBMWClub is a free app that BMW of­fers to car own­ers.

It of­fers users in­for­ma­tion about af­ter- sales ser­vices, in­clud­ing car main­te­nance tips and prices, emer­gency road­side as­sis­tance and dealer in­for­ma­tion.

An­a­lysts said that the big­gest func­tion of these apps is sav­ing money for users.

First, they can save ex­pen­di­tures for pur­chas­ing some pro­fes­sional prod­ucts like global-po­si­tion­ing nav­i­ga­tors.

Sec­ond, it can pre­vent users from be­ing cheated by deal­ers.

Some of the au­to­mo­tive apps are con­nected to on­board soft­ware by car­mak­ers be­fore these ve­hi­cles are de­liv­ered to buy­ers.

Xu said his newly bought Roewe 350 pro­duced by SAIC Group is like a mov­ing tech­nol­ogy box.

“I re­ally like the free nav­i­ga­tion app called inkaNet be­cause it can take real-time road sit­u­a­tions into con­sid­er­a­tion in route plan­ning and make ad­just­ments ac­cord­ingly.”

“I re­mem­ber one time that the nav­i­ga­tion sys­tem sud­denly asked me to head for a smaller road.

“I was so sur­prised be­cause I was smoothly driv­ing on the main road.

“Later I found out that there was con­ges­tion on the main road in the front, while traf­fic on the smaller road was smooth all the way.

“The ex­pe­ri­ence was great,” Xu said. He said the inkaNet is also con­nected to the 3G net­works of ma­jor tele­com op­er­a­tors.

“In this way, the on­board nav­i­ga­tor can be con­nected to my WeChat — a so­cial net­work­ing soft­ware — on my smart phone. Then the nav­i­ga­tor be­comes a friend on my WeChat ad­dress book.

“I can send any des­ti­na­tion re­quest through WeChat to the nav­i­ga­tor and it will plan route when my wife is driv­ing and I’m not in the car. I can also use my WeChat to check the car’s de­tailed po­si­tion.”

Be­sides SAIC, sev­eral brands like BMW and MINI, BYD, Audi, Chevro­let also have sim­i­lar apps and ser­vices.

Mar­ket in­for­ma­tion

The third kind of apps is to pro­vide car model in­for­ma­tion and other lat­est mar­ket in­for­ma­tion to po­ten­tial buy­ers.

An app called Au­to­home dis­plays se­lected ar­ti­cles and high-def­i­ni­tion pic­tures pub­lished on the name­sake au­to­mo­tive por­tal.

Users can also sub­scribe to in­for­ma­tion about cars they are in­ter­ested in.

Biotech­nol­ogy en­gi­neer Liang Yu, who works in Shang­hai, said he of­ten uses the Au­to­home app. “I use apps to look for car model statis­tics, check prices and watch for new ar­rivals. I also use nav­i­ga­tion apps, but not of­ten. Some­times I’d ques­tion their se­cu­rity. I’m afraid my pri­vacy will not get pro­tected,” he said.

The fourth type of au­to­mo­tive app is for en­ter­tain­ment, like a rac­ing game app named “Real­rac­ing.”

Xu said it has a more cheer­ful speed com­pared with sim­i­lar game soft­ware on com­put­ers.

“I hope there will be more ma­ture apps that can im­prove the ‘di­a­log’ be­tween cars and hu­mans.

“Maybe de­vel­op­ers can in­te­grate iPad into the on­board sys­tem, like what if the LED screen were just an iPad? ”


Visi­tors ex­pe­ri­ence Gaode’s nav­i­ga­tion app at an In­ter­net show in Bei­jing. A di­ver­sity of au­to­mo­bile apps are grow­ing in China, the world’s largest car mar­ket.

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