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Inrix aims to create standard for in-car app software

Michael Martinez
The Detroit News

Seattle-based technology company Inrix has purchased OpenCar, a software provider it hopes can help create an alternative in-car app platform to rival Apple and Google, the company announced Wednesday. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Up until now, nearly every automaker has had to build its own in-house software to support individual applications, like Yelp or Pandora, to work in the vehicle. As a result, the number of available apps vary by automaker, depending on their compatibility with each software system. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto offer popular alternatives, but require users to have those companies’ smartphones to work.

Inrix hopes its new collaboration with OpenCar will change that by offering a software system that could be programmed into any vehicle to support more applications, and can later be customized to create unique infotainment systems.

“It solves the problem that exists in the industry today where you have many content providers, but it’s impossible to build an app that works on 20-30 platforms,” Bryan Mistele, president and CEO of Inrix, said in an interview. “It provides the industry with an open platform for app developers to write once and run on any car.”

Other automakers have attempted to find common platforms.

Ford Motor Co. has open-sourced its SmartDeviceLink software that connects cars to phones, but Mistele thinks there’s a market for an Inrix OpenCar system.

“I think most OEMs are ready to embrace an open solution where you could have hundreds of potential app providers contributing to the platform,” Mistele said.

Such a system could be available within months, Mistele said, and the company plans to announce partnerships with automakers later this year.

In August, Inrix acquired ParkMe, a California-based company that helps users find parking locations, availabilities and reservations. Mistele said the company will continue to expand.

Inrix on Wednesday also announced the launch of its “Autotelligent” feature, a cloud-based platform that learns and stores driving habits to create a personalized itinerary of anticipated trips. The company said Autotelligent will work with OpenCar to create an easy-to-use connected infotainment platform.