Ford’s commitment to connected cars goes back decades, and it’s now bearing fruit with the Ford Developer Program, which John Ellis, who heads the initiative, calls “the first ever auto-developer program in the world.”
Ford has been building connectivity into its cars since 1996 with the introduction of the OBD II port. This was meant for “onboard diagnostics,” and spawned a small industry of aftermarket devices that could plug in to the port and give you detailed information on your engine’s condition, performance, fuel economy, and more.
In 2007, the connectivity kicked into a higher gear with Ford SYNC. Ford followed up by extending the SYNC APIs with SYNC AppLink, which launched in the 2011 Ford Fiesta. Now, over 6,000 developers have signed up to work with the AppLink program, which enables mobile app developers to integrate their apps with the dashboard and steering-wheel controls of compatible cars, as well as its text-to-speech system.
Scott Burnell, who is the global lead for business development and partner management with the Ford Developer Program, adds, “We take apps from just about anybody. It’s an open system, open community, and we’ve got apps from the single developer guy in his basement … all the way up to groups as big as Pandora and Major League Baseball that have AppLink-enabled their apps.”
Image by David Villarreal Fernández.