Ford to integrate smartphone app control into new cars

Xavier Verhoeven
27 April, 2010
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Following up the report that Hyundai is planning to give new car owners iPads instead of manuals, it appears Ford is jumping on the high-tech bandwagon, with a new feature called SYNC AppLink that promises in-car voice control for smartphone apps.

“The growth in smartphone mobile apps has been explosive, and Ford has worked hard to respond at the speed of the consumer electronics market,” said Doug VanDagens, director of Ford’s Connected Services Organisation. “SYNC is the only connectivity system available that can extend that functionality into the car. AppLink will allow drivers to control some of the most popular apps through SYNC’s voice commands and steering wheel buttons, helping drivers keep their hands on the wheel and eyes on the road.”

The technology will allow developers to write their own apps to utilise the cars’ controls and voice-recognition system, and integrate that support into current apps. The first supported phones will be BlackBerry devices and those running Google Android. The first car to support the technology will be the 2011 Fiesta, to be released in North America later this year.

The press release from Ford doesn’t mention iPhones specifically, though its claim that mobile app development “is expected to blossom into a $4 billion industry by 2012” is clearly drawing on the iPhone’s success. According to The New York Times, support for iPhones will come in 2011.

Ford is currently working on an API (application programming interface) and SDK (software development kit) to help developers build apps that interface with the SYNC AppLink system . It has already partnered with a number of developers to offer apps later this year, including Pandora (an internet radio app), and OpenBeak (a Twitter client), the latter of which actually reads aloud your Twitter feed whilst you drive.

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