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Ford Considers Open App Development For Sync

Ford Motor Company is experimenting with an open app development environment for its radios that could impact the Ford Sync.

Ford has teamed with the University of Michigan to permit students to develop apps for a Ford in-car radio this winter. A separate experiment with the University has already launched allowing computer and engineering students to beta test a Ford prototype navigation/music system that can access car performance data and can also use social networking applications, said Ford.

Data gathered from the experiment may be used in future Sync radios, said the company. And Ford is also looking at offering an open software developers kit (SDK) in the future for third-party developers to create Sync apps, said Venkatesh Prasad, group and technical leader of Ford’s Infotronics team in research and advanced engineering.

“We are considering this but, unlike the wireless industry, vehicles have very different and serious safety and security implications,” he said. Although key car electronics are protected by a firewall, “Over and above this we believe we will need a ‘sandbox’ environment to ensure that third-party applications don’t create any unintended interactions with the core applications,” he added.

In terms of the University of Michigan program, Ford is particularly interested in the social-networking apps the students develop. Ford is looking at drivers communicating within a social network to share fuel economy information and location information and other data, said Prasad.