Behind the wheel of automotive app development

Automotive app development: How to create apps for autos

The automotive industry is rapidly changing thanks to advancements in technology, specifically through the development of apps that improve how we drive and manage vehicles. These apps are becoming increasingly popular, ranging from infotainment systems and driving assistance to apps for electric and hybrid vehicles. They improve safety, efficiency, and enjoyment of driving. This market offers opportunities for business since the demand for custom mobile app development in the automotive industry is high. In the article, we explore the diverse types of automotive apps, current trends in the market, and essential practices for developing these apps successfully.

What is automotive software?

Automotive software is the technology inside modern cars that helps manage various functions. This software is behind many features in a car, from dashboard displays to fuel efficiency controls. It allows you to connect your phone to your car, use GPS navigation, and even helps keep your ride smooth and safe with automated systems like stability control and automated braking. As cars become more advanced, the role of software is growing, making the driving experience better and safer.

Global market overview

In 2023, the global automotive software market was valued at USD 19.0 billion and is projected to grow to USD 32.3 billion by 2030, with an annual growth rate of 7.8%. This increase is driven by the fast integration of advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) in vehicles, a rise in the use of connected car services, and more frequent installations of ECUs and domain controllers in vehicles, boosting worldwide demand for automotive software.

Automotive app development statistics: Global market forecast to 2030
Automotive software market global forecast to 2030

Since the market is growing rapidly, it's a great time to enter it with a new app — all you need is an idea that meets the users' demands and a proper technical implementation. Now, let's explore the types of automotive industry apps.

Types of automotive apps

Such apps can serve multiple purposes, from improving customer service to streamlining operations.

1. Infotainment systems

These apps combine entertainment and information delivery to the driver and passengers. These systems can provide a range of features:

  • Navigation: Built-in GPS and maps help drivers find routes and destinations easily, and monitor traffic in real time.
  • Media playback: Allow users to play music, podcasts, and audiobooks.
  • Voice recognition: Enable voice commands to control functions hands-free.
An example of automotive app development - Android Auto app

Android Auto is an example of such an app. It allows users to connect their Android smartphones to the car's infotainment system. Once connected, it projects a simplified version of the smartphone's interface onto the car's in-dashboard display. The app lets drivers use GPS navigation, make calls, send messages, listen to music and podcasts, etc.

2. Telematics systems

These apps are used to monitor and manage vehicle functions remotely. Here are some of the typical features:

  • Vehicle tracking: Enable both fleet operators and monitoring the location of vehicles in real-time.
  • Driver behavior monitoring: Analyze driving patterns to promote safer driving techniques.
  • Remote vehicle control: Allow users to lock/unlock doors, start/stop the engine, and check vehicle status remotely.
Verizon Connect - an example of successful automotive app development

Verizon Connect is a great example of mobile app development for the automotive industry. The app offers telematics features designed to improve fleet management. Real-time GPS tracking monitors vehicles while driver behavior analysis promotes safer driving practices. It also includes fuel management, maintenance alerts, and route optimization to reduce operational costs.

3. Advanced Driver Assistance Systems

These technologies are used in vehicles to enhance safety and driving. They rely on inputs from various data sources such as cameras, sensors, and radars to help with driving tasks. ADAS apps are integrated into a vehicle's system to manage these functions.

  • Collision avoidance systems: Help prevent accidents by warning the driver of potential hazards and can take control of the vehicle if necessary.
  • Lane departure warning: Alerts the driver when their vehicle begins to move out of its lane unless a turn signal is activated.
  • Adaptive cruise control: Automatically adjusts the vehicle speed to maintain a safe distance from vehicles ahead.
  • Automatic emergency braking: Helps prevent collisions by applying brakes automatically if a crash is imminent.
Automotive app development example - Mobileye app for monitoring the road

One notable example of an ADAS automotive app development is Mobileye. Mobileye's system uses a smart camera mounted on the vehicle's windshield to continuously monitor the road ahead. It processes the visual data to detect vehicles, pedestrians, bicyclists, and other obstacles. The app can send real-time alerts and notifications, preventing accidents and injuries.

4. Electric and hybrid vehicle apps

These apps cater to the needs of electric and hybrid car drivers by helping them to manage the vehicle's battery, locate charging stations, monitor energy efficiency, and more. Here are several key types of apps used in electric and hybrid vehicles:

  • Battery management apps: These applications monitor the vehicle's battery health, charge level, and usage patterns. They can predict future battery performance and suggest optimal charging times to extend the battery's life.
  • Energy efficiency trackers: Apps that monitor and report on the vehicle's energy consumption, helping drivers to drive more efficiently. They provide tips and feedback on how to improve driving habits to maximize range and minimize energy use.
  • Charging station locators: Provide comprehensive maps of charging stations, allowing EV owners to find nearby available charging points, check their status, and sometimes even reserve a charger.
Tesla app, a great example of successful automotive app development

The Tesla automotive mobile app provides remote control and monitoring capabilities from a smartphone. Owners can remotely control car functions such as unlocking, climate settings, and starting or stopping charging. The app also offers real-time charge monitoring, location tracking, and the ability to schedule service appointments. Features like Summon allow the car to autonomously move to the owner's location within a site.

5. Maintenance and diagnostic apps

Such apps monitor the health and performance of a vehicle and ease regular maintenance. These apps help users better understand the car's condition and prevent future mechanical problems. Here are some common features for automotive app development:

  • Vehicle health reports: Provide regular updates on the condition of various critical components.
  • Diagnostic tools: Help identify and troubleshoot issues with the vehicle's engine, transmission, and other systems.
  • Vehicle maintenance reminders: Help users track maintenance schedules, log service history, and get reminders for upcoming service needs, like oil changes, tire rotations, and more.
Torque Pro, an example of automotive app development for maintenance and diagnostics

Torque Pro is a popular app that connects to a car's OBD system via an OBD-II Bluetooth adapter. It lets users monitor car performance, like engine temperature, RPM, speed, and emissions. Torque Pro can also read and clear trouble codes, helping diagnose and resolve issues without a mechanic. Additionally, it features customizable dashboards, logs data, and can even show fuel economy to help optimize driving habits.

6. Connected car apps

These apps use the internet, sensors, and data analytics to improve convenience, safety, and efficiency. Here are some of the primary functionalities for connected car automotive app development:

  • Remote functionality: Apps allow users to control various car functions remotely via their smartphones. Functions can include locking and unlocking doors, starting the engine, controlling the air conditioning, and checking the status of windows and lights.
  • Safety features: Many apps include safety-oriented features like automatic crash notifications, emergency call services, and roadside assistance.
FordPass, an example of connected car automotive app development

FordPass is a connected car mobile app for Ford vehicle owners. It allows users to lock, unlock, and start their vehicle remotely, check key vehicle information like fuel level and tire pressure, and locate their parked vehicle. The app also provides maintenance reminders, allows for scheduling service appointments directly, and can send real-time alerts about vehicle health issues.

7. Ride-sharing and mobility apps

These apps help users share rides with others or book personal rides on demand. These are some of mobile app development options for this case:

  • Ride-sharing apps: These apps connect passengers with drivers who use their personal vehicles to offer rides. Users can book a ride through the app, see estimated fares and arrival times, and even choose different levels of service.
  • Car-sharing apps: These apps allow users to rent cars for short periods, for those who occasionally need a car without owning one. Such mobile app development typically includes features like locating nearby available cars, digital unlocking, and automated billing.
  • Micro-mobility apps: These include services for renting scooters, bicycles, and e-bikes. Ideal for short, last-mile trips, these apps allow users to locate vehicles, unlock, and pay via their smartphones.
Lime app, an example of mobility type of automotive app development

Lime is a popular micro-mobility app that provides users with access to on-demand electric scooters and bikes. The mobile app includes features such as a map to find nearby scooters or bikes, details about battery life, and the ability to scan a vehicle's QR code for quick access. It also offers information on local regulations and safety tips.

Trends in automotive app development

The automotive mobile app development sector is evolving, driven by technological progress and changing consumer needs. Here are some of the current trends that are shaping the future of automotive apps:

Electrification and eco-apps

As the automotive industry shifts towards electric vehicles (EVs), users need apps that help them find nearby charging stations, manage charging schedules, and track energy consumption. These eco-friendly apps support the adoption of EVs by making it more convenient to own and use.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML)

AI and ML are becoming integral to automotive apps. These technologies enable features like predictive maintenance, personalized user experiences, and enhanced voice recognition systems. By analyzing user data, these apps can predict when a vehicle requires maintenance before a breakdown occurs — this improves user satisfaction and safety.

Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR)

AR and VR are revolutionizing how consumers interact with vehicles. Automotive apps use AR to show navigation and safety info directly on the windshield. It looks like a heads-up display. VR is used in showrooms to let users take virtual test drives and explore car features without being there.

User Experience (UX) enhancements

Entrepreneurs focus on enhancing the user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) in automotive mobile apps. Simplified navigation, intuitive controls, and visually appealing designs ensure that the apps are accessible to more people. Allowing users to adjust settings for notifications and app behavior, can improve the user experience even more.

Connectivity and Internet of Things (IoT)

Connectivity is a common feature for mobile app development for the automotive industry. Vehicles equipped with IoT sensors provide important data that apps can use to check the condition of a vehicle, track location, and much more. With IoT, vehicles can interact with other devices, like smartphones, tablets, dash cams, smart GPS devices, etc.

Safety and security features

As vehicles become more connected, they become vulnerable to cyber attacks. Developers need to use advanced security protocols to protect user data and prevent unauthorized access. Additionally, apps need to have safety elements like emergency calling, vehicle tracking, and real-time alerts about driving conditions.

Subscription models and in-app purchases

Many automotive apps are moving towards subscription models or offering in-app purchases. This trend allows developers to provide basic app functionalities for free and charge for premium features, such as advanced analytics, remote functions, or exclusive content.

Best practices for automotive software development

Developing successful automotive mobile apps requires attention to several best practices and key considerations. These ensure not only the functionality and appeal of the app but also its safety and reliability. Here are some essential strategies to guide your automotive app development process:

1. User-centric design — Always start with the user in mind. Understand the needs and behaviors of your target audience through extensive research. A user-centric design approach ensures the app is intuitive, meets the user's expectations, and solves real problems.

A design concept for automotive app development - a vintage car rental app
Here's how we designed a vintage car rental app — the colors and layout are chosen to ensure that vehicle photos take the center stage, appealing to the target audience.

2. Platform compatibility — Ensure your app is compatible with multiple devices and operating systems, including smartphones, tablets, and in-car systems. This broad compatibility helps to maximize your app's reach and usability across different user groups.

3. Performance optimization — Automotive apps must perform well under various conditions. Ensure that the app is fast, responsive, and capable of handling simultaneous processes smoothly. Performance optimization is crucial, particularly for apps that function in real-time, such as navigation or vehicle monitoring apps.

4. Security and data privacy — Since automotive applications deal with sensitive data, such as user location and vehicle information, focus on robust security measures. Implement encryption, secure data storage, and regular security audits to protect user data. Additionally, clearly communicate your data privacy policies to build trust with your users.

5. Regular updates and maintenance — Continuous improvement based on user feedback and technological advancements is key for any software development. Regular updates not only help fix bugs but also introduce new features that keep the app competitive and relevant. Moreover, proper maintenance ensures the app remains compatible with new versions of operating systems and hardware.

6. Testing under real conditions — Beyond virtual tests, validate your app in real-world conditions to see how it performs in actual scenarios. This includes testing its functionality while the vehicle is in motion, in different weather conditions, and in varied geographic locations. Real condition testing can help identify and rectify potential failures that might not be apparent in controlled environments.

7. Compliance and legal considerations — Stay informed about and comply with regional and international regulations that affect automotive app development. This includes laws related to data protection, driver distraction, and overall vehicle safety. Regulations for the automotive industry can be GDPR in Europe and CCPA in the USA for data privacy, NHTSA for safety standards in the USA, etc. Non-compliance can lead to legal issues and harm your brand reputation.

8. Integration with existing ecosystems — Consider how your app will integrate with existing automotive ecosystems and third-party services. Seamless integration with other devices and apps enhances user experience and functionality, making your app an indispensable tool for users.

9. Scalability — Design your app with scalability in mind. As your user base grows, your app infrastructure should be able to handle increased load without compromising performance. Scalability is crucial for sustaining the growth of your app and expanding its features in the future.

By adhering to these best practices and considerations, you can create mobile apps that are not only visually appealing but also reliable and secure. Tailoring your software development process to these guidelines will greatly increase your app's chances of success in the competitive automotive market.

Development process from start to finish

Initial steps

Conducting thorough market research is crucial for entrepreneurs entering automotive app development. Begin by analyzing existing apps in the automotive industry, user feedback, and market performance to identify what users value and what is missing. Engage directly with potential users through surveys and interviews to gain deeper insights into their needs and behavior. This allows you to clearly define your app's unique advantages.

Then, align your business goals with the user needs and market demand, setting clear, realistic software development objectives. Think about features you want to add to your app and prioritize them, for example, using the MoSCoW method. The acronym stands for:

Must have: These are vital features that the app needs to exist. Such features can be authorization, payments, navigation, notifications, etc.

Should have: These are important but not vital features. They are second in priority and should be included in the development plan if you have enough time and resources.

Could have: These features are desirable but not necessary for a successful project. They are often included in future iterations.

Won't have (this time): These are features excluded from the current project scope. They might be revisited and considered for future projects or iterations.

This method allows entrepreneurs to plan their projects and allocate time and budget wisely. Next, outline every stage of the mobile app development in a clear roadmap, marking important milestones, deadlines, and budget estimates.

If you choose to work with Ronas IT, we can help you prioritize features for your future app and provide you with a clear estimate with approximate costs and timelines for every stage — it's a part of our app development services. Here's an example of our estimate for a UI/UX design project:

FlowUser StoriesEstimation in
hours mobile
Project initializationUI kit16
Flow chart6
Visual concept12
Concept presentation4
Register/log inI can register/log in with phone number8
I can register/log in with socials
Create an accountI can choose account type (individual, business)16
I can pass KYC for business account (if chosen)
I can pass KYC for individual account (if chosen)
I can fill in account info
Search for an itemI can search by name56
I can sort
I can filter
I can save searches
I can add item to favorites
I can add review
I can be redirected to business
Book an itemI can choose type (hourly, daily, monthly)32
I can choose pickup/dropoff time
I must accept terms and conditions
After bookingI can leave review20
I can rate item
I can rate item owner
ChatI can text to users I have relation to24
I can send images to users I have relation to
I can report users
List an itemI can add name48
I can add photos
I can add availability
I can add location
I can add price
Profile detailsI can change profile info8
I can change payment method
Total250
$10,000

After finishing the design stage, we prepare a detailed estimate with more precise costs and timeline. It's impossible to do it right at the start, since the complexity of design directly affects the costs and time needed to complete the project.

UI/UX design

The next step in mobile app development is creating the app's interface. Effective UI/UX design for automotive apps requires balancing beauty, functionality, and safety. Here are some essentials to consider:

Simplicity and clarity: Use a clean layout with large buttons and legible fonts to minimize driver distraction. Essential functions should be easy to access to keep interactions short while driving.

Consistency: Keep design elements like color schemes, typography, and button shapes consistent throughout the app to avoid user confusion.

Contextual awareness: Design the app to offer relevant information based on the driving scenario, such as traffic updates during peak hours or suggested stops on long trips.

Feedback and responsiveness: The mobile app should respond quickly to user inputs to confirm actions have been acknowledged, reducing the need for repeated commands.

Voice control and hands-free functionality: Incorporate voice commands to allow hands-free operation and enhance safety.

Accessibility features: Include options for users of all abilities, such as voice feedback and high-contrast visuals.

Regulatory compliance: Ensure the app meets all relevant safety and interface regulations for the automotive industry to build trust and avoid legal issues.

At Ronas IT, we start creating the interface for automotive app development by collecting all the necessary information about the project and discussing your vision. Then we design the app's concept — we create about 3 mockups to help you choose the visual direction of the app. After you approve the concept, we create a mind map to plan the app's navigation, define the hierarchy of elements and think the app's logic through. Next, we choose colors and fonts and create the app's screens. Once everything's approved, we provide a UI kit for developers — it contains all the elements needed to make everything work. Here's an example of our design concept for an electric vehicle mobile app:

A design concept for automotive app development - electric vehicle app
Check the full concept created by our software development company here

Development

Choosing the right technology stack is critical for automotive app development. For mobile apps requiring immediate response and high engagement, native mobile app development using Swift for iOS and Kotlin for Android ensures optimal performance. Cross-platform frameworks like React Native are effective for simultaneous development across multiple platforms. React Native allows us to reuse the code and cut the development costs while maintaining the code quality.

Cloud services enable efficient data management, crucial for features that depend on real-time updates. AI and ML can also be integrated to offer personalized recommendations and route optimizations, setting your app apart in the automotive market. Integration of voice-controlled technologies like Siri, Google Assistant, and Amazon Alexa enhances hands-free operations crucial for safety and convenience within automotive apps.

APIs are necessary for integrating with various systems and services, including maps for navigation, payment gateways for transactions, or automotive manufacturers' databases for specific vehicle data. Given the sensitive nature of data exchanged in automotive apps, robust security protocols and encryption are also mandatory to protect user privacy and prevent unauthorized access.

As a software development company, we work in 2-3 week sprints and provide a tangible result by the end of each sprint. It means that our clients can test the app piece by piece throughout the mobile app development, which makes the process transparent. We develop the features according to their priority and focus on flexibility and scalability. One of our key principles is writing clear code to ensure the quality of our products. Also, we run automated tests and use error-tracking tools to fix the bugs and continue to support the product after launch.

If you're interested in creating an automotive app, you can start by contacting us — we will discuss the project and our collaboration with you, including the technologies suitable for your project and approximate costs.

Want to build an automotive app?

Launch and further iterations

Successfully launching an automotive app involves not just getting it out into the market but also continually adapting and enhancing it based on user feedback and new technological advancements.

Start with a controlled release, targeting a small group to gather initial reactions and identify any critical issues. After refining the app, execute a full-scale launch supported by robust marketing efforts to increase its visibility.

Mobile app development doesn't stop there. Post-launch, concentrate on actively collecting and analyzing user feedback. This feedback reveals what features resonate with users and what aspects might need tweaking or fixing. Use this data to regularly update and improve the app, addressing bugs and integrating innovative features to stay relevant and competitive.

Keeping an eye on the app's performance through analytics tools helps in understanding user behavior and the app's stability. Updates should not only fix problems but also improve functionality, ensuring users always have the best version of your app.

As a mobile app development company, we follow Apple and Google guidelines and ensure that our apps have no bugs and run flawlessly to provide a quick release to the store. As we've already mentioned, we continue to support the app after the first version is released. We can adjust the product based on user reviews and add new features.

Wrapping up

Automotive app development is transforming the way we drive, making it safer and more enjoyable. With the automotive software market expanding rapidly and technological advancements frequently emerging, it's a great time for entrepreneurs to get involved. By focusing on user needs, embracing new technologies, following best practices, and working with dedicated developers, you can create apps that improve the driving experience and lead to a more connected and efficient automotive future.

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