Following on the launch of its first software developer program (earlier post), Ford is now turning its attention to the growing trend in hardware hacking by transforming vehicles into an experimental development environment. The OpenXC research platform from Ford is now out of beta and available to all “makers” and do-it-yourselfers at http://openxcplatform.com.
The Ford Developer Program launched earlier this week at CES makes the SYNC AppLink application programming interface (API) available for the creation of smartphone apps that can be controlled inside the car using your voice.
While AppLink is available in Ford vehicles now, OpenXC is focused on the future as an open-source hardware and software platform developed by Ford Research and Innovation to unleash the power of the open-source hacker community to explore what can be done with vehicle data.
Ford is committed to innovating with the help of software and now hardware developers. By connecting cars and trucks to wireless networks, and giving unheard-of access to vehicle data, entirely new application categories and hardware modules can be explored—safety, energy efficiency, sharing, health; the list goes on. OpenXC gives developers and researchers the tools they need to get involved.—Paul Mascarenas, Ford vice president and chief technical officer
The OpenXC kit includes a vehicle interface module based on the popular Arduino platform developers can use 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. The hardware module is connected to a smartphone or tablet on which apps can be written to consume and use these data.
The read-only system is designed to keep everything isolated from the vehicle control systems. The OpenXC website also provides schematics, documentation and code for open-source hardware modules, including the wireless solar-powered heads-up display developed by OpenXC co-founder Bug Labs.
Through the OpenXC platform, we are paving the way for new opportunities that will help us prepare for the future of transportation where the automobile, mobile networks and the Internet cloud come together in ways never before imagined.—Venkatesh Prasad, senior technical leader of Open Innovation for Ford Research and Innovation
Some of the areas developers can target with OpenXC include:
Big data. Ford is increasingly a data-driven company fusing both internal and external sources to guide product and marketing offerings and support strategic decision making. In addition, vehicle data from the growing list of sensing technologies built into the car can be used locally to provide for the creation of a more personalized, convenient and productive driving experience, and aggregated to help address congestion and improve efficiency.
Open-source innovation. Viewing the car as a platform and providing access to real-time data allows for the rapid development of custom hardware and software applications. Ford has extensive experience in development of on-board and off-board applications for production cars using the SYNC in-car connectivity system, and now the Silicon Valley Lab is looking at open-source research using the OpenXC platform.
User experience. Connectivity is an increasingly important part of the total user experience while driving. Finding new ways to reduce stress and keep the driver informed can make driving a more pleasant experience.
Early in 2012 Ford shipped the first OpenXC beta toolkits to universities such as the University of Michigan, MIT, Stanford University and HCL Technologies in India. Since that time, OSIsoft has sponsored a hackathon to create an application using vehicle data from OpenXC in combination with its enterprise data analytics platform.
At Michigan State University, a team of undergraduate students has built an Android app that uses OpenXC to collect data from the Ford MyKey system into a centralized database and present it in visual report card format.