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Ford's New Custom Model Is An App Toolkit

Ford has launched its OpenXC vehicle application research platform. Described as a combination of open source hardware and software for developers to build vehicle-centric custom applications and pluggable modules, standard (and well-known) tools will be available to the programmers who use it.

The launch of OpenXC is in fact the second developer platform to be offered by Ford alongside the wider Ford Developer Program, which has made the SYNC AppLink API available for the creation of smartphone apps that can be controlled inside the car using your voice.

While AppLink is available in Ford vehicles now, the company positions OpenXC as "focused on the future" as an open-source hardware and software platform. Ford is hoping to "unleash" the power of the open-source hacker community to explore what can be done with vehicle data.

Ford positions OpenXC as an API to the car — by installing a small hardware module to read and translate metrics from a car's internal network, the data becomes accessible from most Android applications using the OpenXC library.

"[Developers] can start making vehicle-aware applications that have better interfaces based on context, can minimize distraction while driving, are integrated with other connected services, and can offer you more insight into a car's operation," says Ford.

The company worked with partner firm Bug Labs to create what they are calling a "standard way" of creating aftermarket software and hardware for vehicles.

"Every new car is full of computers and electronics, and there is growing interest in connecting the output from those systems to third-party applications and the Web. Many companies are already offering tools to hook into the driver's interface, but for the most part they have limited availability for hobbyists and developers," says Ford.

NOTE: Right now, OpenXC supports over a dozen different measurements on a growing list of Ford vehicles.

The OpenXC team "imagines" a time when a car will be as easy to program as a smartphone. So the OpenXC version released now runs on a combination of Arduino and Android — hence, the reference to "well-known" tools.

According to Ford, drivers will be able to plug the OpenXC vehicle interface into a car and then, from Android, read data from the vehicle in real-time like the steering wheel angle, GPS position, and vehicle speed.

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