San Francisco – Derrick Kuzak, group vice president of product development for Ford, had one main message for the wireless industry at his CTIA keynote speech today: We want to work with you.
“We need your creativity, your expertise and your pioneering spirit,” Kuzak said, emphasizing that Ford and the wireless industry share a common customer: people who drive cars and use smartphones.
Ford is moving aggressively to develop what it calls “apps on wheels.” Kuzak announced the company has released a software development kit and for AppLink, which leverages the API for Ford’s Sync technology to allow drivers to control apps on their smartphones with voice commands and built-in controls.
Ford is reaching out to the wireless community to make existing apps compatible with its Sync technology, instead adopting a walled-garden approach with the development of its own in-house apps and storefront. Sync-compatible apps will be distributed through existing app stores.
Kuzak also emphasized that the Ford has decoupled its vehicle development from the development of its in-car connectivity services to take into account the rapid pace of the wireless industry.
Instead of embedding cellular modules into the car, Ford Sync customers plug their own wireless broadband dongle into a USB slot, making the system carrier-agnostic and immediately upgradable to 4G services.
“We knew early on this would not be a one-size fits all proposition,” Kuzak said. The average development time for a new vehicle is about three years, whereas the development of a new in-car wireless solution takes only about six months.
The auto maker is reviewing more than 1,000 submissions from app developers. Kuzak said Ford believed there should be “strict limitations” on what activities should be allowed while driving and that company’s goal is “not to have thousands of apps available for the car.”
Ford named Pandora, Stitcher and OpenBeak as its first app partners, with more announcements coming soon.
“What’s really exciting is looking a bit further into the future and envision what’s possible,” Kuzak said. “That’s why we’re looking to you for ideas.”