Ford Invites Developers Inside the Car With New Dev Program, Platform

Ford Motor Company announced a new developer program that enables developers to build voice-enabled apps for the Ford SYNC AppLink system.

Demonstrating not only that software truly is everywhere but also that attracting developers to your platform is key to the platform’s success, Ford Motor Company has launched a developer program to get more apps into their cars.

The Ford Developer Program essentially invites developers into the car. It is an application developer program that enables software developers to integrate their apps with Ford’s SYNC AppLink onboard system.

Ford has been a mainstay at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) for several years and at CES 2013 the carmaker not only announced the Ford Developer Program, but additionally that its OpenXC platform – essentially an open API for your car – has come out of beta.

The Ford Developer Program provides developers with information and tools needed for the creation of relevant, voice-activated experiences inside the car, the company said.

Using the SYNC connectivity system and AppLink application programming interface (API), Ford said it is the first automaker in the world to launch an open developer program that enables software developers to directly interface with the vehicle and create apps that will enhance the driving experience.

"The Ford Developer Program marks a dramatic shift in how we will innovate new features and add value to our vehicles throughout the ownership period," said Hau Thai-Tang, vice president of engineering for Ford Global Product Development, in a statement. "Opening the car to developers gives consumers a direct voice and hand in the creation of apps that can help our products remain relevant, up to date and valuable to our customers."

SYNC was co-developed by Ford and Microsoft based on the recognition that consumer electronics evolve much more rapidly than vehicles. The connectivity system was architected to work with the mobile devices that drivers use every day, while providing an upgrade path that can bring new capabilities into the vehicle.

"Thanks to our partner Microsoft and their expertise, we have turned the car into a development platform with extensive opportunities to continue to add value through new features delivered at the speed consumers now expect," said Doug VanDagens, global director of Ford Connected Services, in a statement. "With more than 1 billion smartphones now in service around the world, we expect mobile connectivity will continue to grow in importance."

Thai-Tang said when Ford first introduced SYNC in 2007 there was a need for a way to connect and control cell phones and digital music players in the car. Thus, "Offering voice control so drivers can keep their hands on the wheel and eyes on the road has proven to be popular with our customers. Now, with an even faster adoption rate of smartphones, there is a need for a renewed focus on voice control for the unique capabilities of these devices, especially for the use of apps," he said.

Ford cites a recent Frost & Sullivan study that shows that one in five survey respondents acknowledge using apps while driving with no connection to the vehicle. While SYNC provides connectivity and voice control for phones and music players via Bluetooth or USB, AppLink provides a voice-activated interface, allowing drivers to control smartphone apps without the need to pick up their devices. First launched in 2010, SYNC AppLink provides voice command and control of mobile apps including popular services like Pandora personalized radio, Stitcher smart radio, NPR News, iHeartRadio digital radio and Scout personal navigation.