GM now lets developers test their in-car apps running in actual cars

GM has been doing a lot to try to make it easier for developers to create software for use in their vehicle infotainment systems. Back in January, it opened up access to a wide range of data points from the vehicle, and made it possible to develop using a simulator on the desktop, instead of having to use very specific developer hardware based in Detroit.

Now, GM is introducing GM Dev Client, an app that makes it possible for developers to test their in-vehicle software creations in real world conditions in actual cars, including performing real-time updates to the code via a laptop to implement tweaks and changes while the car is moving (handled by a passenger, and not a driver, of course).

This is a big change in how developers build for and target automaker native software platforms: It’s something has never been optimized for broad development efforts in the way that iOS or Android are, for instance. There are still controls in place that help ensure safety is a top priority, but this drastically removes the friction involved in building apps for use in cars.

To get to the stage where developers can test in-car, they first have to download and install the NGI SDK (the software kit GM released at the start of this year to allow development on virtualized infotainment environments on the desktop). Once you’ve built your app, you can submit it to GM for internal review, and once it’s approved, GM will make the Dev Client available via the developer’s AppShop. Developers provide their car’s unique vehicle identification number to get whitelisted.

Being aggressive with supporting developers and improving the process of creating apps for its vehicles is a smart move at this juncture: GM has drastically improved this process from end to end in just six months, and that should help them win more buy-in from developers targeting in-car early to get ahead of the coming autonomous wave.