GM rolls out Marketplace shop-and-drive app

Nora Naughton
The Detroit News

An added feature in newer General Motors Co. vehicles allows drivers to shop on the go.

Marketplace, an app appearing on GM’s infotainment screens beginning Tuesday, allows drivers to use their cars to order coffee, make a restaurant reservation or even buy chicken wings. It connects to a merchant’s native smartphone app and offers shortcuts to place saved food and drink orders, download coupons or — in the case of TGI Friday’s — reserve a table for dinner.

Drivers can also purchase more data for in-vehicle Wi-Fi hotspots, discounts on oil changes or deals on GM accessories in the “Shop” section of the application.

GM says Marketplace is the auto industry’s first commerce platform for on-demand transactions. It’s designed to be a safer alternative to using the phonewhile driving — though it does not have voice-command capability — by tapping into third-party merchants like the Starbucks’ iPhone app.

Marketplace “allows our customers to have a better use of their time, and safer (driving) experience, hopefully avoiding the use of a cellphone in the vehicle,” Santiago Chamorro, GM’s vice president of global connected consumer experience, said at the automaker’s OnStar Lab on Monday.

It cuts down on distracted driving by only offering a few options at a time, as opposed to an entire menu, Chamorro said. The application appears as a widget on a GM car’s touchscreen, and doesn’t require the driver to type, scroll or search for desired services.

“When you use your phone, you get access to the entire menu of Starbucks so you have hundreds of possibilities of beverages and food and temperatures. That won’t go into the vehicle because the platform knows you,” he said. “Just click, click and you’re done.”

The digital assistant is available on roughly 2 million model-year 2017 or newer Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac vehicles with compatible infotainment systems. The Detroit automaker is installing the new application, which is independent from OnStar, via the vehicles’ 4G LTE connectivity. This effort began last week and will be completed Tuesday.

Marketplace is a free service that does not require a separate data plan.

The in-car transaction service evolved out of GM’s work with IBM Corp. on the auto industry’s first cognitive mobility platform. Marketplace is the first application in a suite of new personalization features coming down the pike, Chamorro said. An estimated 4 million GM cars to be connected to the commerce platform in the next 12 to 18 months.

“Leveraging connectivity and our unique data capabilities, we have an opportunity to make every trip more productive and give our customers time back,” Chamorro said in a statement released by GM Tuesday.

Chamorro said Marketplace will eventually feature a digital wallet, allowing for drivers to pay for goods within the app. Participating merchants include Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, Wingstop, TGI Friday’s, Shell, ExxonMobil, Priceline, Parkopedia, Applebee’s, IHOP and Chamorro said more merchants are expected to join.

The rollout of Marketplace comes at the end of a year packed with tech-related announcements for the 100-year-old Detroit automaker, which is promising at least 20 new all-electric, zero-emission cars by 2023 — including two new vehicles in the next 18 months — and a self-driving taxi service in selected cities in 2019.