Print 14 comment(s) - last by Just Tom.. on Jul 6 at 3:49 PM

The car is the latest smart device

In today's era of smartphones and smart TVs -- even smart watches -- an oft forgotten, but fast growing sector is the smart vehicle.  Today's vehicles come packed with infotainment software.  Some even have live connections to the cloud via your smartphone or built in modems.  Some automakers are opening their door to apps (e.g. drivers ed apps, driving log apps, apps to tell you where the closest fast food joint is, or apps to suggest a fun date location nearby). 

I. GM and Ford Woo Third Party Developers

Ford Motor Comp. (Falready supports third party apps in SYNC/MyFord Touch, while General Motors Comp. (GM) will be rolling out its own app platform next year, according to announcements.

All this means a quiet boom in Detroit-based app developers.  App developers in Detroit largely fall into three tiers -- those who work directly with automakers on their in-car interfaces; those who work at large suppliers on third-party interfaces; and those who do contract work to support certain automotive themed apps either directly in-vehicle or related to a vehicle (think your car manual on your smartphone).

Ford young buyers
The car is the new smart device. [Image Source: Ford]

Laura Kurtz, Ford’s manager of United States recruiting, told The New York Times in a recent highlight on the surging Detroit information technology (IT) and app developer recruitment that Ford plans to hire 300 IT specialists in the next year.  Some will be tasked with working on MyFord Touch, SYNC, and related infotainment products, while others will play roles as systems administrators and software support for the mass of software needed to generate a modern fuel-efficient vehicle.

GM plans to add even more skilled developers and IT specialists over the next three to five years -- 4,400 in total at a location in the Detroit suburb of Warren as well as other facilities in Austin, Texas; Roswell, Geor.; and Chandler, Ariz.  Of those new hires, GM estimates 1,200 will be recent college grads.  GM's applications and application ecosystem development team is headed by Steve Schwinke and has 50 members.  That will double by the year's end to over 100 engineers.  Comments the team lead, "A lot of people are really interested in the space because it’s new.  It’s a new screen."

And GM is eager to get third party developers involved for its new program, which launches next year.  Nick Pudar, director of GM's new app developer ecosystem program, echoes these statements as he travels the country try to recruit phone developers to consider developing vehicle apps.  He comments, "[Developers] view [automotive] as a new space to be creative.  The vehicles are becoming this new channel of innovation.  This is a newfound field full of features and functionality that developers are intrigued by."

II.  Small Developers Thrive in Michigan

Michigan's Department of Labor projects that the system software developer is growing faster than any other technical job in Michigan -- projected 36.9 percent a year.  App developer growth isn't bad either -- at 23.5 percent, versus an average growth rate of 8.5 percent.  The Department of Labor came to those statistics by digging into local growth trends since 2010.

The state -- famous for the "Big Three" and countless automotive suppliers -- is certainly recovering post-recession, but the software development field is spring back faster than any other technical field in the state.

One growing power is Detroit Labs.  In 2011 the company had 10 employees, it currently has 40, and by the end of the year it expects to employ over 60 engineers -- a six-fold growth.  Company co-founder Paul Glomski comments, "If you go to the coasts, you are one of thousands.  In Detroit, you have the opportunity to make an impact. It's for real."

Detroit Labs
Developers relax in a casual environment at Detroit Labs. [Image Source: The Detroit Times]

Another top local development firm is Apigee Labs, founded by Brian Mulloy -- a San Francisco, Calif. startup veteran and University of Michigan graduate.  While Apigee does not directly develop many automotive apps (instead focusing on a wide variety of form factors from smartphones to fitness machines), it's reveling in the auto-driven app economy.  Apigee shares a building with Detroit Labs.

Company founder Mr. Mulloy comments, "You’re going to see developers set up shop in Detroit because they’re going to follow the money and there will be lots of money."

There are obstacles to becoming an automotive app developer -- namely the cost of development kits (at least based on Ford's model).  And Detroit lacks the cachet of the hipster havens of the West Coast.  But ultimately developers go where there's money and there's a lot of money in Detroit, plus low living costs.

Thus expect the Detroit app and IT boom to continue, as the car becomes the latest app-sporting, cloud-connected smart device form factor.

Source: The New York Times

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RE: Limited market
By Mitch101 on 7/2/2013 4:34:47 PM , Rating: 2
And for 90% thats probably all they want too.

I have early sync 1.0 for the most part I leave my old Zune 30 hooked into it and have it randomly play music and when I pull into my driveway it wirelessly syncs with my pc if there is new stuff to download. I would replace it but no need to it wont die and I leave it in there in winter too.

When my Mobile phone is with me in the car using voice I can have it read me text messages and I can respond to text messages using voice to text translation without ever taking my eyes off the road or a hand leaving the steering wheel almost like a conversation with a few added confirmations.

Its really an enhancement to your mobile device that goes beyond the abilities of a blu-tooth device that runs through your speaker system.

Heck my car e-mails me health reports and I think I read it contacts the dealership if there is an issue.

They make sense when used right for the right things but I think sometimes they try and overdevelop and thats where you see this failed execution or control.

RE: Limited market
By Samus on 7/2/2013 8:51:15 PM , Rating: 2
This might sound ridiculous to some, but the reason they are pushing technology in cars is because most other things have been perfected. It's the next logical step.

RE: Limited market
By Mitch101 on 7/3/2013 8:25:41 AM , Rating: 2
I think auto dealers are just trying to one up each other with features. With the latest generation being the portable gadget/computer generation it only makes sense to have some sort of gadget wow factor in the console. Necessary no.

RE: Limited market
By zhivaji on 7/3/2013 9:22:43 AM , Rating: 2
Are 18/19/20 inch wheels necessary in a passengar car ?
Is a 11 speaker system a necessity ? If not, why do manufacturers provide them ?

This is the next evolution of in car entertainment. I hope someone gets it right..

My ideal car entertainment would have physical buttons (either steering wheel mounted or on the console), voice recognition that really recognizes all accents, great screen with tactile feedback and most importantly smartly laid out that I can select what I want with mere glances.

The possibilities are endless.

I wish auto manufacturers agree to some amount of uniformity atleast at the top screen in order not to confuse consumers.

RE: Limited market
By BRB29 on 7/3/2013 9:26:16 AM , Rating: 1
I hate dealing with people in general most of the time.

For some vehicles yes. It helps with handling. If my M37 has 16" wheels, it would turn like crap.

RE: Limited market
By flyingpants1 on 7/3/2013 11:09:35 AM , Rating: 2
Yeah, cars are perfect.

What is wrong with you.

RE: Limited market
By Samus on 7/3/2013 4:06:59 PM , Rating: 2
Modern engines and drive-trains last 300,000 miles with virtually no maintenance. Even newer gearboxes, differentials and even slushbox transmissions are "sealed for life" with synthetic fluid that can last decades.

Suspension components such as bushings and linkages are so robust now that they rarely need replacing during ownership of a vehicle.

Many systems are becoming electronic such as steering and air conditioning eliminating fluid leaks and pump failures.

Electronic systems and sensors are so well implemented now its virtually impossible to overheat (cylinder deactivation as heatpump when no coolant present) or destroy an engine (protection for too much/too little oil via oil pressure sensors and control valves, knock sensors prevent damage from bad fuel, catalyst systems warm up cold engines/oil extremely fast)

Safety systems are so robust that it's difficult to lose control or even intentionally flip or spin-out a vehicle via electronic braking distribution, electronic stability control (consisting of yaw, G, steering, throttle and accelerator sensors) and obviously crumple zones, pedestrian safety, seat belt pre-tensioners and multistage airbags from knees to inside seat belts and been reducing vehicle-related injury and deaths have been reduced by an order of magnitude over the last 30 years. Considering traffic and drivers are increasing and getting worse every year, this is an amazing statistic. The suicide rate is now greater than traffic deaths.

It's not even necessary to mention vehicles are more fuel efficient, ride better, are easier to drive, and require less maintenance than every before.

Yea, I'd say most systems in modern cars are near-perfect. What else do you want it to do, suck you off? What is wrong with you?

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