The lines between cars, computers, and mobile devices are blurring, as several new web-powered apps have made their way to Ford vehicles via the SYNC on-board vehicle control system API. Following up on our post last month about the use of the SYNC system to enable “cars as a platform,” news has emerged about the release of some new apps that give drivers (and passengers) access to web services via mobile devices.
According to a Ford press release, Stitcher (customizable Internet radio), Twitter and Pandora can be accessed and controlled on a mobile device via Ford’s latest release of the SYNC system. Drivers can use voice commands and steering wheel controls to control apps for each service:
By enabling developers to integrate the SYNC API into their apps, Ford is providing customers with the capability to access the applications they use most while in the car. Leveraging SYNC’s safer voice commands and steering wheel controls, drivers are able to keep their hands on the wheel and eyes on the road. Using an open API model allows Ford to leverage the mobile device as an operating system and processor, while using SYNC to access the vehicle controls.
The YouTube video below shows the Pandora app in action:
According to BusinessWeek and LATimes.com, Mapquest can also be used to send driving directions directly to the SYNC system, which uses an internal GPS antenna to provide turn-by-turn directions to drivers.
This new set of apps is a nice preview of this latest trend for cars serving as platforms for apps that bring access to all kinds of services in the cloud. Note that Ford doesn’t seem to be the only vehicle manufacturer moving in this direction: Kia’s new UVO “Infotainment” System is an onboard vehicle control system to SYNC (though it does not yet integrate with third party apps). And just today, there’s a story in the NY Times on driving to distraction and related thread on Techmeme.
As we mentioned in our earlier post, Ford plans on creating an “app store” that will provide drivers with access to numerous apps built with an open API for SYNC. This is great news for developers, who will be able to use their API knowledge and experience to expand their application offerings to a net new platform that represents a large user base.