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OnStar invites third-party developers to hit the gas

The in-vehicle concierge is opening up its previously closed API to new apps. First up, the RelayRides car-sharing service.

RelayRides will be one of the first apps to be part of OnStar's third-party developer initiative.

OnStar is giving the green light to third-party app developers.

The General Motors in-vehicle concierge announced this evening at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas that it's making its proprietary application program interface open for third-party app developers, giving them access to the OnStar ATOMS cloud server. (See CNET's live blog of the OnStar event.)

The first third-party app will be RelayRides, a peer-to-peer service in which users rent out their personal cars to other drivers in the area. A demo of the app showed it helping users find, reserve, and unlock OnStar enabled cars using the smartphone app. The app, which will launch early this year, will also be available for the iOS and Android platforms.

"Research shows that the amount of mobile applications for the Android and iOS platforms is likely to double in the next 12 months," OnStar President Linda Marshall said. "Customer demand is driving a new marketplace for a variety of automotive applications.

"With this step we believe we can broaden our portfolio, grow our business and enable our customers to achieve additional functionality from their vehicle using their computer, smartphone, tablet or other devices," Marshall said.

OnStar has previously worked with companies like Mapquest and Google to provide API-based solutions for the company's eNav service.

OnStar will make its API available in the first half of 2012. (Developers interested in the API should contact OnStar at

OnStar is also looking at incorporating Verizon 4G LTE into vehicles, using the mobile broadband to deploy all the services of OnStar to the cloud. A video demo showed Verizon's Steve Schwenke Skyping from the back seat of the 4G-enabled Volt somewhere else on the show floor in to the press conference.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the portion of the video that garnered the most interest was that one could play the popular game app Angry Birds on a screen in the back seat. "It's the ultimate babysitter," joked one of the participants.

Verizon's 4G LTE connection through OnStar probably wouldn't be a separate data plan, but would be rolled into the OnStar subscription.

Angry Birds in your backseat?

With its Cue System, OnStar is also focusing on "infotainment." A video demo showed how the Linux-based system could pair up 10 devices with the Cadillac's in-car tech system. OnStar created eight user profiles for the most common type of needs, from driving enthusiast to tech savvy to gadget girl.