Ford, Bug Labs Team Up To Develop Open-Source Car Connectivity Tools

9/14/11Follow @XconomyDET

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saddled with R&D costs, and the community gets what it wants by customizing the content.”

The idea was spawned after K. Venkatesh Prasad, senior technical leader of Ford Research and Innovation, traveled to India and noticed that while most people couldn’t yet afford a car, they did have cell phones with significant functionality. He started thinking about how to offer consumers a luxury car experience at a compact car price.

“Virtually everyone carried phones rich in locally relevant features,” Prasad said. “So, the challenge became how can we deliver similarly relevant and affordable connectivity inside the car.”

Imagine you live in India, Prasad says, own a Ford car and love the game of cricket. You would be able to purchase a $30 community cricket module from your Ford dealer that was designed by a local developer and approved by Ford. This module, plugged into a master control board in your car, would then play a community radio channel dedicated to cricket for the season. After the season is over, you could remove the module and replace it with something else.

“We’re giving the best tool kits that we know of today to developers and allowing them create what they want, while at the same time paying careful attention to things like automobile safety and customer satisfaction” Prasad says.

Ford is the first automotive OEM to collaborate with Bug Labs, a company that Semmelhack founded in 2006 as a way for individuals and companies to break traditional barriers associated with new hardware development. Though the company has already pioneered the SYNC connectivity system, the collaboration with Bug Labs represents a paradigm shift for a company whose CEO recently said he wants to Ford become a tech company that happens to sell automobiles.

“We’re definitely leading the charge,” Prasad says. “We want to make life better for the consumer without compromising safety.”

Sarah Schmid is the editor of Xconomy Detroit. You can reach her at 313-570-9823 or sschmid@xconomy.com. Follow @XconomyDET

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