GM and Ford open their cars and trucks to app developers


Chrysler’s new hood ornament

Auto companies have experimented with software that connects phones and cars, but Ford and GM are the first to open the way for any software developer to create an app that runs on a vehicle. The move is intended to make cars more attractive to younger buyers. But giving third parties some control over the driver’s experience isn’t without potential risks to driving safety and to security.

Ford was the first to make its pitch to app developers at a press conference on Monday. The program is an expansion of the company’s Sync software, which is already found in many vehicles and was developed in collaboration with Microsoft. Up to now, the apps created for Sync were made with close partners of Ford.

The new system is closer to Apple’s App Store. Anyone can access the tools needed to create a Ford app and submit it for approval and distribution through Ford’s store. Unlike Apple, Ford makes those apps available free.

Apple’s App Store hasn’t any free apps?

GM announced a similar program soon after Ford, saying that apps made by third-party developers would appear in an “app catalogue” that will be available for GM cars in 2014. Ford and GM will allow apps to interface with cars’ audio and display systems and to access some data from the engine, such as mileage and speed. They will access the Internet through a tethered phone or a car’s own Internet link.

Both Ford and GM demonstrated some prototype apps at CES, including radio apps TuneIn and iHeartRadio and a Weather Channel app…

An example of a mobile app suited to cars was provided by Glympse, whose app is already available for Ford’s Sync system; it lets drivers share their location with family or friends with a single voice command or the press of a dashboard button. “We knew that with the right experience it could be more intuitive and easy to use in the vehicle,” said Brian Trussel, the founder of Glympse. User data shows that many people already use the app while in the car, he added, and a version integrated with the car is safer to use that way than one on a mobile device. Both Ford and GM also discussed the potential for apps that recommend nearby businesses…

Predictable worry-wart commentary appears here and there in the article. Questions of security are as relevant as they are in any communications system. Nothing new.

Questions of distractions while driving are more to the point. People stupid enough to text while driving will have to limit themselves to their cell phones. I doubt if anyone in the car biz will put that facility into their software. My wife has a new Ford and she’s more bemused by cruise control – a new experience for her. Though the new and improved Sync does everything it’s supposed to do – and very well. Voice control works as advertised.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.