MUMBAI, India – Whether they are in mature automotive markets like North America or Europe or in growth regions like India, drivers want to take advantage of increasingly ubiquitous mobile connectivity. At the NASSCOM India Leadership Summit
, Ford demonstrated the OpenXC research platform and the potential of open-source application development for the automobile.
“Through the OpenXC research project, we are paving the way for new, local entrepreneurs and businesses, where the automobile, mobile phones and the Internet cloud come together in the creation of new experiences when behind the wheel,” said Venkatesh Prasad, senior technical leader for Ford Research and Innovation, and keynote speaker at NASSCOM.
“India is such a unique and diverse marketplace that – as an automaker – it’s almost impossible for us to keep pace with consumer trends. The OpenXC platform will allow us to harness the power of the consumer and encourage the development of innovative solutions to meet their needs, at their pace.”
OpenXC is an open-source hardware and software platform developed by Ford Research and Innovation and New York City-based Bug Labs to unleash the power of local developers to determine niche market-specific applications that take advantage of mobile connectivity.
“At Ford, we’re constantly researching and reshaping the role of the automobile to add value for our customers,” said Prasad. “OpenXC allows us to investigate what developers can do when we present the car in the same way as they see a smartphone software platform.”
“Networked vehicles represent the next frontier for mobile application developers,” said Peter Semmelhack, Founder and CEO of Bug Labs. “By connecting cars and trucks to wireless networks, entirely new application categories can be explored - safety, energy efficiency, sharing, entertainment, health – the list goes on. OpenXC gives developers the tools they need to get involved.”
OpenXC includes an interface module based on the popular Arduino platform that allows developers to read data from the vehicle’s internal communications network. The hardware module provides real-time access to parameters like the vehicle sensors, GPS receiver and vehicle speed that can be read by apps while keeping everything isolated from the vehicle control systems.
Ford has just started shipping the first OpenXC beta toolkits to universities such as the University of Michigan, MIT and Stanford, as well as initial developer participants, including Weather Underground in the U.S. and HCL Technologies in India.
At NASSCOM, Prasad is demonstrating an app created by HCL that would allow a driver to provide selected personal contacts with an automatic location update during that driver’s travels. By monitoring location and speed information from the vehicle, the app can determine if the driver is running late for a meeting and then send an email or text message notification to other attendees without any input from the driver. The app can also notify the driver’s family following a safe arrival after a road trip.
“With OpenXC, Ford is opening up access to the car,” said Prasad. “By enabling local and independent developers to easily and quickly create apps using data provided by the car in combination with mobile connectivity and the power of the cloud, the possibilities are almost limitless.”
The hope is that developers working with OpenXC will be able to create apps across a wide spectrum of categories, from those dealing with personal information and entertainment to those who are contributing to a better world – such as directly addressing congestion, and the needs of road safety, healthcare and education.