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We tested GM's app that lets you order fast-food from your car

Daniel Howley
Technology Editor
GM’s Marketplace app lets you order food, pay for gas and make restaurant reservations from your car’s dashboard.

Is waiting five minutes to get your coffee at the drive-thru too much for you to handle? Then the Marketplace app from General Motors (GM) might be exactly what your incredibly harried existence needs.

Available in select GM vehicles, the app lets you order and pay for food from places like Dunkin’ Donuts (DNKN), the restaurant formerly known as IHOP (DIN), Wingstop (WING) and others without leaving the driver’s seat.

What’s more, you can easily locate and pay for gas from your infotainment system. Unfortunately, this feature is still in beta and didn’t quite work for me when I tested it out in the GMC Terrain Denali — though that should change in the future.

GM unveiled the new feature in December, saying it would add Marketplace to millions of 2017 and 2018 model-year cars, trucks and crossovers with compatible infotainment systems. It’s an interesting offering, but it will likely have little sway over which vehicle you ultimately decide to purchase.

The setup

Setting up the Marketplace app proved burdensome in my brief experience. First, I had to create a profile via my test vehicle’s IntelliLink infotainment system. Then I had to download the Marketplace app from the in-dash app store.

You can quickly place and pay for your favorite orders from the app.

Once that was finished, I had to link each service I wanted to use to the Marketplace app. To do that, I had to tap the appropriate icon for Dunkin’ Donuts, Applebee’s or IHOP, which then generated an on-screen message that prompted me to check my email for instructions to connect my accounts to Marketplace.

From there I had to sign up for online accounts for each business, after which I was finally able to link them.

If GM wants Marketplace to take off as a destination for consumers, it needs to do something to make this setup process smoother. Ideally, the company would develop a way for customers to log into their various restaurant and gas station apps through one portal rather than making them complete the process over and over again.

On the road

The idea behind Marketplace is to give drivers the ability to order their favorite drinks and snacks from places like Dunkin’ Donuts or Starbucks, get takeout and make reservations at their most-frequented restaurants and find and pay for gas without having to rely on their smartphones.

Instead, using a series of large buttons and icons, they can do all of the above while driving. I like the idea of being able to quickly punch in an order for a coffee with half and half and 15 Splenda and having it ready when I show up at the drive-thru. But I’m also not going to pretend that cutting out the extra 30-second interaction with a human will save me a ton of a time.

You want Applebee’s? You’ve got Applebee’s.

But that doesn’t seem to have kept early users from using the app. According to GM, some 50,000 users have piled up 1 million interactions with the system, with regular repeat usage.

By far the most helpful Marketplace feature is the fact that it provides you with the address of the nearest business you’re viewing on the app. For instance, if you’re checking out Starbucks or WingStop, Marketplace will show you the franchise’s nearest location. As a driver, that’s far easier than having to search for a business via a navigation app.

My biggest concern when using the Marketplace app was how much it could potentially add to distracted driving. After all, I could stare at a menu for 20 minutes and still not know what I want to eat. So looking at a menu while driving might be a bit dangerous.

By far the best feature of the Marketplace app is the ability to quickly find nearby gas stations and coffee stops.

To combat that, GM says it worked to ensure that you can order food within a few quick taps. You also don’t get a look at a restaurant or coffee shop’s full menu, but instead select choices or your own favorites.

My biggest issue with the GM Marketplace app is that it doesn’t work with Apple’s CarPlay or Google’s Android Auto. Both systems offer the best in-car app experience since they connect directly to your smartphones. That means that when you want to use Marketplace, you have to exit CarPlay or Android Auto to go back to the IntelliLink home screen. It’s a bummer for sure.

GM’s Marketplace app is a nice option, but it feels like a solution to a problem that didn’t exist. I enjoy the ability to quickly locate gas stations and coffee shops, but I can’t really see myself feeling so rushed as to have to order IHOP from my car so I can pick it up in a flash.

If you’re thinking of a GM vehicle and Marketplace happens to be included, then by all means fire it up and grab a coffee or two. But if you’re searching for a new car, Marketplace shouldn’t factor into your ultimate decision.

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Email Daniel Howley at dhowley@oath.com; follow him on Twitter at @DanielHowleyFollow Yahoo Finance on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and LinkedIn