Print 12 comment(s) - last by Manch.. on Jan 9 at 8:53 AM

Automaker aims to become industry standard, offers up its specification royalty-free

Ford Motor Comp. (F) has received harsh criticism from J.D Power and Associates and Consumer Reports regarding its graphically overhauled MyFord Touch infotainment system.  But despite the criticism, Ford appears to remain confident that its vehicles need more infotainment features, not less.

I. Ford Aims to Positions Itself as the "Apple" of the Auto World

The automaker continued that push on Monday afternoon, showing off a new program for developers at the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Ford has worked hard to install itself as a regular fixture at a show dominated by electronics giants.  The automaker first came to CES back in 2009, when it showed off the SYNC infotainment system, then followed up in 2010 with MyFord Touch, and then in 2011 with the Ford Focus Electric.  This year Ford's VP of Engineering Hau Tai-Tang announced the "first open developer program in the auto industry's history".

The car maker began its efforts with AppLink last year -- a project to allow app-makers to use the vehicle's built in voice support to control their apps and the Bluetooth link to stream sound from apps as well.

Now mature, Ford is putting the finishing touches on the program, announcing a new developer website --  Ford says that it has shipped 1 million vehicles with AppLink support and Ford says it should sell over a million more this year.  It predicts that by 2015 there will be an install base of 14 million vehicles with AppLink on the roads.  Ford plans to debut the technology in Europe and Asia later this year.

Ford Developer Program
Ford announced the auto industry's "first open developer platform".

While some will surely disagree, Ford sees letting drivers use apps on the road as a safety feature.  It cites internal research, which showed that 75 percent of users want to connect their devices to their car, and that users are twice as likely to use their touchscreen by driving if the (in-car) technology doesn't meet their needs.

Ford emphasized that it will instantly deny any app with video content or rich imagery, with extensive text or reading of text, or apps that involve playing games.

II. A Small Selection of Indie, Big-Time Developers Already Onboard

The company claims that it's relatively easy to add code to your smartphone apps using Ford's AppLink API.  It gives stories like that of the creators of BeCouply, who finished an early build of their app in a single night.  The app helps couples plan their dates, by offering voice-controlled suggestions of activities and nearby options in those categories.

BeCouply offers suggestions for dates.

But Ford also has paired with jacApps to offer an option to interested parties who aren't as experienced on the development front.  jacApps will build you an AppLink app for a fee.  And another company, Cetecom, is Ford's official testing partner, which it refers interested parties to.

For do-it-yourself developers who don't own a vehicle with SYNC, Ford is offering a special text box, which it nicknames "SYNC in a box".  The box-shaped test console features the features of a standard SYNC-equipped center-stack.

It's Ford SYNC in a box!

Among the other apps announced include:
  • Roximity - An app to find nearby deals
  • WSJ Live - Radio programming from News Corp. (NWS)
  • USA Today - News app with stories read by "real people"
  • aha Radio - Aggregates internet radio channels, podcasts, and other content
  • Rhapsody - Popular music subscription service with 16 million songs
  • Kaliki - Reads audio-versions of articles in popular magazines and newspapers, including The Detroit Free Press, Men's Health, Shape, and TV Guide.
  • Sina -- social networking and media content (for the CHinese market)
  • Glympse -- track your location and send email, SMS, Facebook, or Twitter messages to family members with your location
  • Amazon CloudPlayer -- Streaming music from, Inc.'s (AMZN) popular online storage service
Ford SYNC AppLink Apps
Ford is offering a number of launch apps with the help of its developer partners.

Amazon VP of Digital Music, Steve Boom agrees with Ford that AppLink is a safety feature of sorts.  

He remarks, "At Amazon we're music lovers and music lovers tend to have lots of music in their music collections... when you're speeding down the freeway, rifling through your glovebox looking for your latest CD from Mumford and Sons is probably not the greatest idea... fumbling for your phone only to realize you didn't sync your songs to it ... also not such a good idea. Amazon cloud customers will be able to play their entire music libraries while driving in the car.  [App Link is] a convenient, and more importantly safer, way to play your music."

Ford says it is offering the technology free of licensing or royalties.  It says that contributing the software to the industry is a "service to developers".  Ford reports that it is "working with several industry groups to become the standard protocol for smartphone communications within the car."

[All Images © Jason Mick and DailyTech LLC]

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By Milliamp on 1/8/2013 3:06:33 AM , Rating: 5
How different is it really to listen to Pandora in the car than to listen to XM?

When I listen to Pandora though bluetooth on my phone I end up spending less time flipping through stations when I drive.

I see no problem using the UI in the car to control it rather than getting my phone which is what everyone is already doing.

Personally though the apps I want to see should give me things like OBD2 diagnostics, check my car against recalls, provide mounds of stats/graphs about my gas mileage or driving patterns, let me make small tweaks to the fuel mapping, answer questions that would normally be found in the owners manual etc.

I don't need the car to tell me about local deals or which people cutting me off in traffic are single or like tennis.

RE: Apps
By ebakke on 1/8/2013 3:29:37 AM , Rating: 3
How different is it really to listen to Pandora in the car than to listen to XM?
For me, it's a difference of ~$14.50/mo.

RE: Apps
By Donkey2008 on 1/8/2013 9:51:35 AM , Rating: 2
Funny you say that. I have a subscription to SiriusXM in my car and I find that I use Pandora way more. Heck, I already pay for a $30/month unlimited data plan (thank you AT&T for grandfathering, booo on the throttling) so why pay for XM? I would save $200 a year by doing so and be perfectly happy with Pandora. Oh, and remember when XM was suppossed to be "commercial free, uninterupted"? Umm, yea right.

Plus, I would finally have a legit reason for my girlfriend NOT to listen to the Hits station on XM. I am really tired of saying "oh, god, Pitbull again?" anyway.

RE: Apps
By Wererat on 1/8/2013 12:13:45 PM , Rating: 2
"Personally though the apps I want to see should give me things like OBD2 diagnostics, check my car against recalls, provide mounds of stats/graphs about my gas mileage or driving patterns, let me make small tweaks to the fuel mapping, answer questions that would normally be found in the owners manual etc."

I agree (not so much recalls, but good brainstorming). The things you're talking about are already advertised with pricy dongles that plug into OBD2 ports and custom applications. Why not built into the console?

"which people cutting me off in traffic are single or like tennis."

You don't want to Tweet something to the guy who just cut into your lane and braked hard? :D

RE: Apps
By Manch on 1/9/2013 8:53:28 AM , Rating: 2
If you have android you can get Torque for 5$ and a Bluetooth dongle for about 10$-20$ on amazon. I haven't seen any for iphone/ipad that do not cost your a-holes virginity. Not paying 100$+ for a dongle to use with the "free" program. If anyone has seen a cheap iphone/ipad program that will work with an elm327 let me know. Me and one of my friends both bought one from amazon but he cannot find an iphone app that can use it.

By Scootie on 1/8/2013 2:42:19 AM , Rating: 2
I'm all okay for such technologies to be included in our cars but not before we get cars like those in IRobot that have autodrive so we can do something else meantime(work for example). Till then? It will mean more accidents on the roads.

RE: Touchscreens
By HostileEffect on 1/8/2013 2:57:36 AM , Rating: 2
I know its an example but the last thing I would want to do is give anyone a reason to milk me for more work.

RE: Touchscreens
By FITCamaro on 1/8/2013 8:01:47 AM , Rating: 2
Because there's a huge difference between it being on the cars display and people staring at their phones. At worst things will be the same as they are now. At best better integration with phones will mean more people paying attention to the road since they won't have to fumble with their phone to control it.

Ford's infotainer system
By Richard875yh5 on 1/8/2013 8:57:37 AM , Rating: 2
GM is also doing the same. This will be good for the consumers.

By Flunk on 1/8/13, Rating: -1
RE: Terrible
By GulWestfale on 1/8/13, Rating: 0
RE: Terrible
By ebakke on 1/8/2013 3:19:00 AM , Rating: 2
The entire point of this technology is to remove the need to access a touchscreen. The concept is not to have an app installed in the car and accessible through its touchscreen. The concept is to utilize the car's voice capabilities for in-phone apps.

If the car can sync with my phone, I can say: "Mobile Apps : Pandora". And then "Play Station Tom Petty". When something terrible comes on, I can say "Thumbs Down". And I can use voice or steering wheel controls to skip tracks. If I don't have voice controls, I have to dig out my phone, find the Pandora app. Wait for it to load. Then find my station. And each time I want to make I change, I have to again take my eyes off of the road.

"This is about the Internet.  Everything on the Internet is encrypted. This is not a BlackBerry-only issue. If they can't deal with the Internet, they should shut it off." -- RIM co-CEO Michael Lazaridis

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