Ford, GM Seek to Fuel Third-Party App Development

    Both Ford and General Motors at the Consumer Electronics Show have issued invitations for third-party developers to create apps for their cars.

    Both will offer SDKs online. Ford is expanding its Sync software, which it developed in collaboration with Microsoft, with a focus on three primary categories for apps: news and information, music and entertainment, and navigation and location, reports Wired.

    It plans to operate much like Apple’s iTunes store, in which developers submit apps for review. GM, in contrast, says apps will be available in an “app catalogue” for its 2014 cars. Both will allow apps to connect with cars’ audio and display systems and to access some data from the engine, such as mileage and speed, according to MIT Technology Review.

    It quotes GM chief infotainment officer Phil Abram, as saying:

    “There will be a category of apps that will be unique to our cars and very different from what people use today on their smartphones or tablets. GM may approve applications that stem from vehicle ownership; for example, customers may choose to download apps that assist them in driving more safely or in a more fuel-efficient manner, possibly decreasing the costs of vehicle ownership.”

    Ford also plans to offer its Sync AppLink API to other automakers.

    “By offering our Sync AppLink API to other car companies, we can create a much larger ecosystem for the car so that developers can create apps for a single automotive platform,” Hau Thai-Tang, vice president of engineering for Ford Global Product Development, told Wired.

    There is concern that apps could lead to more distracted drivers, however. The automakers said they will reject apps that involve “video content or rich imagery, apps that require extensive text, and apps that involve playing games.”

    After security researchers demonstrated in 2011 that they could unlock and commandeer Ford and GM vehicles through their on-board systems, though, questions remain about the security issues that apps could create.

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