Connected Car Platform Vinli Lures Developers with Billions of Free API Calls

Vinli, maker of a connected car system, is aiming to lure developers to its platform with a promotion that will give developers 1 billion free API requests each month for five years.

Vinli's $200 device, which plugs in to the diagnostics port present on most cars manufactured after 1996, "turns your car into a roving WiFi hotspot."

With unlimited 4G LTE internet access, drivers can stream content to their passengers' devices and access a number of entertainment and utility apps. These include Dash, an app that allows drivers to connect their cars to their smartphones, as well as Beagle, which is designed to help parents track their teenage drivers. Vinli also provides emergency notifications in the event of an accident, roadside assistance, and maintenance reminders.

To expand the universe of apps available to Vinli users, the company launched a developer program in late 2014 that gives developers access to a number of raw and structured data services. Raw data services provide access to telemetry, event and diagnostics data, while structured data services include a trip service that summarizes telemetry data and a behavioral service that categorizes driver risk. 

Now, Vinli is looking to expand developer access to these services with an offer of up to 60 billion free API requests over five years.

According to Jennifer Conley, Vinli's VP of Communications, API requests for most of Vinli's services are priced at $1 per 10,000 calls, so the promotion could save developers who create popular apps a significant amount of money.

Conley says that over 2,000 developers are part of Vinli's developer ecosystem and that more than 100 apps are in active development. "Vinli APIs and SDKs cover pretty much any use case car or driver related use case," she told me. "We've seen a variety of different ideas and integrations ranging from real time driving dashboard apps to integrated platforms for commercial/industrial fleets."

A Busy Year for the Connected Car

The connected car ecosystem has grown significant in 2015. Companies like Vinli and Automatic are attempting to bring the automobile into the app age with adapters that consumers purchase and plug in to the diagnostics port on their cars. At the same time, automakers such as Toyota and Volkswagen have themselves been working to develop robust platforms for their own cars.

As part of that, many are courting third-party developers to build compelling experiences for drivers. Honda, for instance, has set up a research and development facility in Silicon Valley and recently announced Honda Xcelerator, "a program designed for tech innovators across all funding stages who seek to transform the mobility experience."

Ultimately, it's logical to believe that the automakers, and possibly major tech companies like Apple and Google, will come to build the dominant connected car platforms and developer ecosystems, but there are still millions of cars on the road that don't have the connected tech newer models are shipping with. So if the Vinlis and Automatics of the world can drive adoption of their add-on devices, developers could find that they have viable platforms for reaching the driving masses until the day comes when every car is a connected car when it drives off the dealership lot. 

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