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Why car apps are the future of driving

  • App-based finance agreements set to be the next big thing
  • Expect insurance, breakdown and electric charging to be thrown in
  • Car parking and car sharing fast becoming app-based too

Written by Murray Scullion Published: 22 November 2021 Updated: 30 March 2023

Those little car apps tucked away on your phone are fast becoming the quickest way to search for a vehicle, sort the finance agreement, pay for the insurance and even find electric charging or petrol stations.

And it’s not just third-party tech companies. Manufacturers are getting in on the act too, working with service providers to control all aspects of motoring. Today, you might use Google Maps for getting around, JustPark for somewhere to leave your car, and PetrolPrices to search for the cheapest fuel near you.

But in the near future there will be hyper modern car apps from the likes of Ford and Jaguar that will allow you to spec a car, set up a subscription service or PCP agreement /PCH agreement, be the basis for the insurance and show you where to charge. Oh, and you’ll probably pay for that top up with the app too.

Why apps?

You might already use car-specific apps that allow you to look at how much fuel you have left, or to monitor how much longer you’ll need to spend in McDonald’s before your car is fully charged. And if you’ve been searching for a new car in the last five years you will have probably seen Android Auto/Apple CarPlay. These allow you to treat your car’s infotainment system like your phone.

From a customer perspective, car manufacturers will soon be able to offer a one-stop-shop car solution for people, all on a single app. This could save people money, as well as time.

From a manufacturer’s perspective, it wants an app-based system as a way to gain access to your data. This process is called surveillance capitalism. It’s basically another way for car makers to make money from customers and it involves them harvesting data from the app, anonymising it, and then selling it.

Jaguar app
Controlling the climate control from your phone is becoming the norm for new cars.

Mark Aryaeenia is the CEO of vehicle data company, Verex, which is the exclusive connected services partner for insurance and accident management solutions for 15 car makers in the UK, including Jaguar, Mazda and Renault.

The company has recently signed a deal with Genesis and Polestar to offer customers integrated services, such as usage based insurance, telematics, subscriptions and notification of loss.

He says: ‘Manufacturers want access to connected data. Using an app is much easier. And from the user perspective, so is having all the info in a single place.’

What the future of car apps has in store

Specific features on apps in the future could include charging maps and dedicated car-specific insurance, according to Aryaeenia. He adds: ‘EVs (electric vehicles) are a great example of where apps could help. Currently there are multiple apps for different providers of charging stations. I can imagine that changing.

‘Insurance will be built into the manufacturer app too. An app can learn so much about a user, while it also knows the exact safety score proxy (a safety score in the insurance industry based on things such as, how quickly a driver accelerates and how harshly they brake), thanks to the app. This is very useful to an underwriter.’

Mark added that the use of data helps cars move away from approximate pricing and into data-backed precise pricing.

Buying a used car

You can already buy a used car via an app right now. Realistically it’s not all that different from buying a car online.

Expect manufacturer-backed apps that put nearly everything you can think of in the car buying process to take off in the next 5-10 years. Thinking of taking the plunge now?

Audi connect app
Even buying a used car will soon be a moment’s work via an app.

Car apps for parking

If you’ve been on a staycation recently that involves you travelling to multiple places in the UK, you’ll have learned all about the confusing array of apps on the market. The choice of parking app is dependent on who runs the car park you’ve chosen.

Apps like RingGo help you pay for parking, while Parkopedia helps you find parking locations. Expect this to change in the next decade or so, with larger providers muscling in and attempting to create one-stop shops for all aspects of parking.

Car sharing schemes

Car sharing schemes work much like renting a car. The main difference is that schemes such as Zipcar are run through apps that help you find your closest car. In a large-ish city, car sharing schemes will have cars dotted around in specific parking spots, ready to be picked up.