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Auto review: GM's newest technology can reserve hotels, order doughnuts for you

Mark Phelan, Detroit Free Press on

Published in Automotive News

GM followed government and its own guidelines for driver distraction, said John McFarland, director of GM global digital experience.

So far, there's no word of complaints or problems from the 2-million-plus drivers whose GM vehicles received the app in an over-the-air update in early December. Given the number of iTunes users who pitched a fit when Apple surprised them with a free, but unrequested, download of a new U2 record, I suspect we'd have heard by now if drivers were struggling with Marketplace. McFarland says it was the biggest over-the-air update in auto industry history.

The app is a big deal not because GM expects doughnut sales and waistlines to grow dramatically, but because of other services Marketplace offers now and will add. Starbucks will be available soon, and you can already get directions to Shell or ExxonMobil stations. The app can automatically provide directions to your preferred fuel brand when you get a "low fuel" alert.

The next step comes when gas stations equip their pumps so you can pay for gas and get loyalty discounts without without putting your credit card in the pump.

"It becomes much more useful when you can pay for gas," Fisher said. "The potential convenience will improve over time."

A Priceline app checks rates and gets directions to nearby hotels. You can only use that when the car is stationary, because the info on price and room is too much to process in a glance while driving.

GM is working on voice activation for Marketplace. That, and quicker loading times, could make the app irreplaceable. Picture yourself at the end of a long day's drive: "Find me hotel rooms and rates in Hattiesburg, Miss. Reserve a table at TGI Fridays."

Yes, you can make reservations at TGI Fridays. Who knew? If that, Red Lobster, Dunkin' and Starbucks aren't enough – what are you, the queen of England? – more options are coming. McFarland said local independent businesses will be able to get in on the action with internet aggregators.

GM expects the number of vehicles with Marketplace to reach 4 million this year. Owners aren't charged for data they use in Marketplace. Updates and new features will come over the air, some announced, some as surprises that owners will discover for themselves.

"We want to offer customers new features and software advances at the same rate as consumer electronics," McFarland said.

About The Writer

Mark Phelan is the Detroit Free Press auto critic. He can be reached at

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