OpenXC architecture diagram

Ford's open source OpenXC platform as gateway to future high tech car gizmos


Ford (and other automakers) envision future cars with high tech infotainment systems galore where car dashboards could have downloadable app's just like todays smart phones and tablets. With the OpenXC platform Ford is creating a channel for open collaboration with 3rd party application developers, allowing them to use cars like the Ford Focus to prototype their gizmos.

Ford, like most other automakers, is heading towards a vision of the car as a platform for high tech wizardry and gizmos. Consumer electronics need not be limited to our living rooms or mobile computing devices, but can also be on-board the car. The OpenXC platform is a step in this direction, being an open source hardware and software stack allowing 3rd parties to connect gizmos to an OpenXC-compliant car.

Ford is positioning OpenXC as a channel for collaboration between Ford and 3rd party application developers. If "your car is as easy to program as your smartphone," it stands to reason that future cars could generate as much innovation and excitement as todays smartphones are generating.

The company announced last week they were making the OpenXC source code available, in beta form, to developers and universities around the world. Ford demonstrated a sample third-party mobile app created with the OpenXC toolkit at NASSCOM India Leadership Summit, held last week in Mumbai India. At NASSCOM the message was to not only open Ford's vehicles for 3rd party applications, but to enable development of market-specific applications for each country. The OpenXC source code is expected to be opened to the public via repositories on github, and documentation is available today on the openxcplatform website.

Additionally to providing the OpenXC platform, Ford is opening a research laboratory in Silicon Valley in Q1 2012 meant to "ensure Ford keeps pace with consumer trends and aggressively prepares for the future by developing mobility solutions to harness the power of seamless connectivity, cloud computing and clean technology." The lab is targeted at collaboration with high tech companies here in Silicon Valley including Apple, Cisco, Facebook, Google, HP, Ideo, Intel, Microsoft Sony, and Stanford University. The research focus of the lab was described as personal mobility, or "Mindful of consumer trends and the growth of megacities, Ford is researching new business models that will help avoid the creation of global gridlock through a holistic approach to personal transportation"; open-source hardware and software developer kits, which is the OpenXC platform that Ford is developing in collaboration with BugLabs; and the car as a sensor, or "researching ways to utilize the multitude of sensors within the vehicle to improve the road for all drivers".

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Consumers have an increased reliance on electronics devices- especially smartphones. They expect regular technology updates in technology devices and the automotive industry is not an exception to this. A recent example of an auto maker working to ensure they are providing consumers with the latest and greatest technology is Audi. Announced in January, Audi is working with NVIDIA to provide their customers with the most up-to-date technology by utilizing Visual Computing Modules (VCMs). VCMs are computer systems are equipped with Tegra 3 processors (a complete System on a Chip that has CPUs, a GPU plus audio and video processors) and designed for smartphone, tablet and automotive apps. By using VCMs, automakers able to quickly upgrade the brains of the infotainment system by easily swapping out older technology and replacing it with the newer. This allows automakers to introduce current technology with each new model year, and potentially provide an easy upgrade path for existing customers too.

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