The digital transformation in the automotive industry continues to turn cars into advanced computing systems. While an average car contained 10 million lines of code in 2010, that number is expected to rise to 300 m by 2030, or up to 500 m if we’re talking about self-driving vehicles.
Moreover, a study conducted by McKinsey on automotive software and related electronics predicts that the specific market will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7% from 2020 to 2030. Needless to say, we can only expect a growing reliance on software in cars which leads to higher demand for car APIs.
What exactly is a car API? What data does it include? How to integrate it in an automotive app? If you’re looking for answers to these questions, you’ve come to the right place. This article sheds light on these topics and also explains how to use them to rev up the mobility app you’re building.
Now, fasten your seatbelt as we’re diving straight in!
What is a third-party car API?
A car API (Application Programming Interface) is a set of protocols, tools, and definitions that facilitate the communication between software and connected vehicles. It links the automotive industry with mobility apps, allowing developers to use vehicle-related data to power specific functionalities within automotive apps.
In essence, car APIs are a standardized way for developers to retrieve real-time information related to specific vehicles, including:
- VIN (Vehicle Identification Number)
- Vehicle attributes, such as make, model, production year
- Location data
- Odometer data
- EV battery level
- EV charging status
- EV charge limit
- EV set charge limit
- EV start & stop charge
- Fuel tank data
- Tire pressure data
- Engine oil life date
From the technical perspective, automotive APIs expose a range of endpoints that programmers can use to access specific data points or trigger specific actions.
Car APIs are the key enabler of fleet management functions for Mobility as a Service (MaaS) providers: they allow for retrieval of vehicle data, which is not only essential to the provision of services, but also instrumental to reducing operational costs and offering frictionless customer experience. Consider the below types of third-party APIs:
- Vehicle information APIs: provide detailed information about specific vehicle models, including specifications, features, pricing, and available options.
- Vehicle status API: aggregates real-time information on e.g. status of doors (locked/unlocked), windows (open/closed), status of lights, battery levels (in case of electric or hybrid vehicles, etc.
- Telematics APIs: offer real-time access to a wide range of telematic vehicle data, such as vehicle location, speed, fuel level, mileage, tire pressure, and engine diagnostics.
- Car parts API: allows to feed detailed information and specification of the car parts into the application.
- Control APIs: enable remote control of specific vehicle functions through an app, e.g. locking/unlocking doors.
- Charging APIs: these have become crucial for automotive apps targeting EV owners. Charging APIs offer access to information about charging station locations, availability, charging rates, and more.
- Maintenance and service APIs: these offer access to vehicle maintenance information, service schedules, and diagnostic data. They also enable automotive apps to provide timely maintenance reminders, facilitate appointment scheduling with service centers, and offer personalized service recommendations.
- Usage-based insurance APIs: enable insurance providers to collect vehicle data and usage patterns to calculate insurance premiums based on individual driving behavior. These APIs provide access to driving data, including distance traveled, speed, or even accelerating and braking patterns.
Key advantages of integrating car database APIs in mobility applications
Car APIs are in fact transforming the automotive industry by creating opportunities for innovative applications and services. With car APIs, developers can build various mobility and MaaS apps, vehicle tracking systems, remote control functionalities, fleet management solutions, and more. APIs facilitate the creation of feature-rich applications that enhance the user experience and provide valuable insights into vehicle performance. Consider the following:
Access to real-time vehicle data
Integrating car APIs in automotive apps gives users access to real-time vehicle data, including speed, fuel level, or issues that must be immediately addressed. This means drivers stay informed with accurate and up-to-date information about their vehicles, which on the one hand offers insights into the condition of the vehicle and a more personalized experience on the other.
Enhanced user experience of mobility apps
Automotive APIs allow you to develop features that enable users to remotely interact with their cars, e.g. like remote locking/unlocking and monitoring vehicle health. These capabilities enhance convenience, comfort, and overall user satisfaction.
Enhanced vehicle safety
Car APIs enable proactive maintenance scheduling and service reminders based on vehicle diagnostics. By providing users with timely notifications, you can help them maintain their vehicles in optimal condition, enhancing safety and prolonging vehicle lifespan.
7 steps to integrating car APIs into your mobility app
As is the case with most software development projects, integrating car APIs into your mobility application requires a systematic approach that includes detailed planning. It’s critical to understand that the exact process of integrating an API into a mobility app will depend on the existing tool itself. An experienced provider can help you tailor that process to your specific requirements.
The general procedure of implementing automotive APIs effectively will include the following steps.
Step 1: Define car API integration goals
Begin with defining the specific goals you want to achieve by integrating car APIs into your automotive app. You’ll have to identify the specific functionalities that your mobility app should provide as well as the required data points you need to access to implement them.
Step 2: Choose the right car API provider
Here, you’ll have to research your options and familiarize yourself with the documentation provided by the selected car API provider. This will help you understand the available endpoints, request/response formats, etc. The documentation should include limitations of the specific API – pay attention to those.
Step 3: Obtain vehicle API access and credentials
Once you choose the best car API provider, you’ll have to sign up for their service to obtain the necessary access credentials, such as API keys or OAuth tokens.
Step 4: Set up the project environment
Next, you’ll have to create a new project or navigate to the existing codebase of your automotive app. This step requires you to ensure that you have the necessary tools and frameworks to make API requests and handle responses (e.g., HTTP client libraries, JSON parsers).
Step 5: Integrate car data API resources
Now comes the exciting part – integrating the car API endpoints into your app. Begin by identifying the specific endpoints you need to interact with to retrieve data or perform actions. You’ll have to use the appropriate methods to make these requests (in accordance with car API documentation specifications). When you receive responses, include them in your app's code by parsing the response data (usually in JSON format) and extracting the required information. The car API may return errors or status codes, in which case you’ll have to implement appropriate error handling and messaging in your app.
Step 6: Perform sandbox testing
Sandbox testing allows developers to test the integration in a simulated and controlled environment. The purpose of such testing is to ensure you integrate the API correctly without impacting the live system or real users. It will require using real life data to perform tests on a fictional car, created especially for this purpose.
Step 7: Monitor and maintain your 3rd-party car API integration
Stay updated with the car API provider's documentation and announcements for any changes or updates that may affect your integration. It’s your job to ensure the car API integration continues to function correctly!
By following these steps, you can successfully integrate car APIs into your automotive app, enabling enhanced functionalities and access to vehicle data. Remember to consult the specific documentation provided by the car API provider for any additional guidelines or requirements unique to their API.
Best practices for integrating car APIs into your mobility app
Now that you understand the process of integrating car APIs into a mobility app, let's take a look at some best practices that ensure effective implementation:
Prioritize data privacy and compliance
When integrating car APIs, make sure you adhere to relevant data privacy regulations, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) or the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). Clearly communicate your app's data handling practices to users and obtain their consent for accessing and using their vehicle-related data.
Ensure secure and encrypted communication
When integrating a 3rd-party car API, prioritize the security of the data transmitted between your application and the API provider. Use secure communication protocols such as HTTPS to encrypt data and prevent unauthorized access or tampering.
Optimize car API requests for efficiency
Design your API integration to minimize unnecessary API requests and optimize the data transfer process. Avoid excessive polling or unnecessary data transfers, and make use of caching mechanisms where appropriate to reduce the load on both your application and the API provider.
Handle errors and exceptions gracefully
Implement robust error handling mechanisms in your integration to handle potential failures or exceptions. Properly handle error responses from the API and provide meaningful error messages to users, assisting in troubleshooting and resolving issues effectively.
Stay updated with car API provider updates
Stay informed about the API provider's announcements, updates, and deprecations. Follow their documentation, changelogs, or developer forums to ensure your integration remains compatible and up to date. Promptly address any required updates to avoid disruptions to your application.
Implement proper user authorization and permissions
If your application involves user-specific data, ensure that proper authorization mechanisms are implemented. Authenticate users securely and assign appropriate permissions to control access to different API features and data. This helps protect user privacy and prevents unauthorized use of the API.
Provide vehicle maintenance reminders
Road safety should always be a priority, so leverage car APIs to retrieve vehicle health data and send users proactive maintenance reminders, no matter the primary purpose of your app. Notify users about upcoming service intervals, oil changes, tire rotations, or any potential issues detected by the vehicle's diagnostic system.
Revving up your mobility app with RST Software
You can certainly take your existing mobility app to the next level by integrating various car APIs. They help to unlock real-time vehicle data to offer a more personalized and feature-rich experience. With thought-through planning and implementation, your mobility app can offer brand new ways for users to interact with their vehicles, offering convenience, efficiency, and a truly connected experience.
At RST software, we have accumulated over two decades of experience in logistics software development, custom mapping and mobility solutions, such as Trans.eu, CarFellows, Bussr, BetterTaxi and other applications that rely on location-based services. If you’re looking for a long-term partner with expertise like ours, feel free to send your inquiry to email@example.com and we’ll be in touch within 24 hrs.