Last week, I mentioned how it seems like every mobile company is creating its own app store. Now, Hughes Telematics wants to give new meaning to that concept by putting an app store on your car's dashboard by 2010. Imagine a world where you can download software to start your car from your laptop or smart phone, or a program that uses blind-spot detection cameras as an antitheft device. That's the idea from Hughes, according to The New York Times.
The concept is actually nothing new. We've been talking about computer systems in cars for years, and some already exist. Last year, we talked about Microsoft Auto and its competitors. Auto is billed as an "infotainment" operating system that automakers can modify to suit their purposes. Ford already uses a version called "Sync," which you can use to make phone calls or operate your MP3 player with voice commands.
Besides Microsoft there's the OnStar system, which is famous for its tales of operators helping incapacitated drivers after an accident; and handy features like MapQuest integration. Hughes Telematics also has products that monitor a vehicle's health and alert the driver to any potential problems.
However, the idea of an app store where a driver could download a variety of programs is an entirely different idea. It allows you to tailor your car to your specific needs, without adding unnecessary programs that languish. While this sounds like a good idea, I have a few questions.
For example, will third-party developers be able to submit their own apps or will it support Hughes programs only? If it's yes to third-party apps, then what kind of apps will be allowed? I mean, do you really need something like "Wobble" on your dashboard? Also, what about safety and security for both the vehicle and the driver? What basic car systems can these apps access, and what safeguards are in place to stop an app from creating unintended consequences? Then again, third-party submissions tend to inspire creativity and innovation, as we've seen with Apple's app store and Google's Android Marketplace. In the end, apps for your auto might be a good thing, but only if Hughes can pair seamless integration with innovative and useful programs.