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Now you can order coffee, donuts, or dinner reservations from your car's dashboard

by Paul A. Eisenstein /
Starbucks cupsElise Amendola / AP file

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With the tap of a button, drivers in late-model General Motors vehicles can now order Starbucks coffee, book a table at TGI Friday’s, or order pancakes for pickup from IHOP — all directly from a touchscreen on the dashboard.

The new feature, named GM Marketplace, is part of a push by GM and other automakers to provide new, in-vehicle tools that could become major sources of revenues as autonomous and fully driverless vehicles come to market in the near future.

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"The average American spends 46 minutes per day on the road driving," said Santiago Chamorro, vice president for global connected customer experience at GM. "We have an opportunity to make every trip more productive and give our customers time back."

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Such services are expected to become even more popular going into the next decade as the industry begins rolling out the first autonomous and fully driverless vehicles. With the ability to focus on other things besides driving, motorists are expected to find ways to shop, work or be entertained while on the road.

Marketplace is the first of a series of new “personalization” services that will roll out over the next 12 to 18 months, according to Chamorro. Initially, about 2 million GM owners will have access to the new service via over-the-air, or OTA, technology to load updated software into many of its 2017 and 2018 models.

By the end of next year, the automaker expects the feature to be available in about four million Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, and GMC vehicles operating in the U.S.

To access the Marketplace, a motorist will simply tap on new icons added to the touchscreens in those vehicles, alongside more familiar features, such as a vehicle’s audio or navigation systems. While some of the same features could be accessed by a smartphone, Marketplace will make the process easier and reduce the likelihood of distracted driving.

Among the vendors who’ve signed up for Marketplace, the service will let a motorist order coffee or food from Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts and other restaurants. The order will be ready and waiting when the driver pulls into the drive-thru lane. They can then pay using a smartphone app.

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Other restaurants, like Applebee’s, IHOP and TGI Friday’s, will let motorists make reservations through the Marketplace, which is linked to the cloud through a vehicle’s built-in 4G LTE WiFi service. Exxon Mobil and Shell will use the app to help customers find a nearby service station. Priceline will offer deals and allow GM Marketplace users to make hotel reservations. And delivery.com will make it possible to access everything from grocery stores to dry cleaners while on the move.

GM has already offered some mobile services to those who have subscribed to versions of its OnStar telematics service, but the GM Marketplace adds a broad range of new features and makes the process simpler.

“For most retailers and consumer brands the daily commute is the only time not accessible in a consumers’ day,” said Chamorro. “Marketplace gives merchants the ability to more safely engage with drivers and passengers in a meaningful way that provides true value for our customers.”

GM is not the only automaker looking to make drivers more productive behind the wheel — and without having to use their smartphones. Earlier this year, Ford paired up with Starbucks and Domino’s to allow motorists to place orders on the go.

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