Ford Puts Developers in the Driver’s Seat with OpenXC

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Last week, Ford introduced its open source platform, OpenXC, developed by Ford Research & Innovation along with New York-based Bug Labs to allow developers real-time access to vehicle data and sensors, GPS and speed while keeping this platform isolated from the control system (great idea!).

It’s awesome to see Ford driving this type of open source-based innovation. By using the open source community development model to help keep up with innovations and compete on the basis of OSS-based telematics and connectivity features, Ford joins a growing camp of automotive OEMs that enable app-based interactions with cars. At the Mobile World Congress last week, Bill Ford said that cars are a great opportunity for the mobile industry – and vice versa.

The basic functionality of OpenXC is pretty simple. According to the project website:

Plug the OpenXC vehicle interface into your car and from Android, you can read data from the vehicle in real-time like the steering wheel angle, GPS position and vehicle speed. Right now, OpenXC supports over a dozen different measurements on a growing list of Ford vehicles.

And that is just the platform! The open nature of this should allow for all kinds of developer creativity.

The sample OpenXC apps that Ford is already talking about are terrific illustrations of the consumer value being delivered: Figure out that you are going to be late for a meeting and automatically send an email notifying the person you are scheduled to meet. Receive a notification that your kid arrived safely at school. Help you drive more efficiently. It is these advanced capabilities that we predict auto buyers will be looking for, not just how many horses are under the hood or 0-60 performance.

While Black Duck Software (and I) are heavily involved in the GENIVI Alliance, an automotive industry association driving the development and adoption of an open in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) platform with a focus on utilizing open source, this announcement is a great reminder that, as comprehensive as GENIVI platform is, there are other opportunities for open source collaboration to advance the driving experience.

It was less than five years ago that the iPhone shipped, and it did so without an app store. Now there are hundreds of thousands of iPhone apps and tons of Android apps on top of that. Mentally fast forward five years and it’s pretty clear that consumers will be customizing their own driving experience with an array of apps built by independent developers on top of open platforms.

Just as I’m fascinated by how my own parents drove without power steering, I’m sure my children will one day wonder how I drove without my auto apps!

Image Credit: Bug Labs


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