General Motors, the biggest U.S. carmaker with total sales of 2.7 million vehicles so far this year, is equipping newer cars with commerce technology to let drivers order food, find gas stations or reserve hotel rooms by tapping a touchscreen on their dashboards. GM Marketplace is being added to all cars even if the owner doesn’t have a paid in-car Wi-Fi data subscription, TechCrunch reported.
Shell and Exxon Mobil will be the first gas stations on GM Marketplace, while the only restaurant chain that can handle in-car reservations at launch is TGI Fridays. Applebee’s, Dunkin’ Donuts and Wingstop can handle takeout orders, and Starbucks will be available early next year. The carmaker plans to add more vendors, Santiago Chamorro, GM vice president for global connected customer experience, said at a press conference.
GM Marketplace which was developed with IBM, will be immediately uploaded to about 1.9 million model-year 2017 and later vehicles, Reuters reported. GM plans to equip about 4 million vehicles with Marketplace among its Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac brands in the U.S. by the end of next year.
GM is taking a big step in expanding the mobile functionality of its vehicles as drivers seek greater connectivity while also obeying laws that restrict cell-phone use. Amazon has partnered with other carmakers, including Ford, to offer e-commerce features with the Amazon Alexa digital assistant. Fiat Chrysler’s Uconnect infotainment system lets drivers connect iPhone and Android devices for on-board features.
The Marketplace service opens up an additional source of revenue for GM, which will collect an undisclosed portion of sales from merchants featured in the dashboard console, Reuters reported. The carmaker won’t charge customers for using the service or data transmissions while making transactions.
Carmakers face a challenge in overcoming mobile users’ loyalty to their smartphones, according to an October study from researcher Strategy Analytics. Car buyers are showing an increased preference for vehicles that have in-car human machine interfaces (HMI), with solutions offered by tech companies being more popular than the on-board systems installed at the factory. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Baidu CarLife are a "must-have" for prospective car buyers, the study found.
GM’s Chamorro said the average American spends 46 minutes a day while driving, and its Marketplace is aimed at drivers who want to make that time more productive. While the carmaker wants to provide greater convenience to drivers, it also seeks a way to avoid distracted driving, which is a major safety concern. All U.S. states have some form of law against smartphone usage while operating a vehicle, but an estimated 660,000 drivers use cell phones at any given time during the day, according to the National Highway Safety Administration. Distracted drivers were responsible for 3,477 deaths and 391,000 motor vehicle injuries in 2015, the most recent year with available data.