Ford, Bug Labs & OpenXC

At Techcrunch today, aside from the metadrama, Ford announced a partnership with Bug Labs to create an open source platform called OpenXC for in-car applications innovation. The two companies will work together to provide engineers, geeks and forward thinking companies a tool kit to use for hardware and software applications for the automobile.

From Techcrunch:

“OpenXC, which is based on Bug Labs’ Bug System, will allow users to create a personalized driving experience through add-ons like visual and audio feedback interfaces and environmental sensors and safety devices — simply by snapping Bug Labs’ hardware modules into the consoles of vehicles.

At Disrupt, Ford and Bug Labs demonstrated the OpenXC platform using a Ford Fiesta to showcase a prototype “Fuel Economy Challenge” app that uses Bug Labs’ hardware and software modules to provide a LED fuel efficiency display module in the vehicle’s cockpit.

OpenXC is designed to give both Ford researchers and third-party developers a low cost sandbox in which they can share, test, and verify any and all concepts related to in-car connectivity. The idea is to allow its open platform to give communities of drivers the ability to customize their driving experience, while at the same time allowing manufacturers like Ford to avoid building customizable vehicles for specific markets.

Instead, through OpenXC’s sandbox, Ford is opening up that customization to third parties, enabling personalization of the driving experience to continue with participation from multiple sources without having to break the bank.”

From the press release:

  • Ford and Bug Labs, an open-source hardware and software provider, announce a joint development project to research, develop and distribute open-source developer tools to advance in-car connectivity innovation
  • Known as “OpenXC,” the research platform is based on Bug Labs’ open-source Bug System and will enable the developer community to quickly prototype ideas and test out affordable new connectivity concepts that could enhance Ford’s future products
  • At TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco, the two companies will demonstrate innovative solutions based on OpenXC, including a socially-networked in-car fuel economy monitor connected to the Internet, via Bug Labs’ cloud-based service, BUGswarm.

“OpenXC is about creating a platform that is totally accessible to the developer community and quickly incorporates local market needs to offer innovative solutions at an affordable price point,” said K. Venkatesh Prasad, senior technical leader, Infotronics, Ford Research and Innovation. “The platform is designed to help us answer the question of how Ford can accelerate the car connectivity experience around the globe, at a value proposition, for both mature and emerging markets.”

A BUGbundle specially designed for experienced developers and researchers

“Combining open, modular hardware and software innovation with the next generation of vehicles reinforces Ford’s position as the world’s automotive technology leader,” said Peter Semmelhack, founder and CEO of Bug Labs. “We are thrilled by the opportunity to collaborate with Ford on such a pioneering project.”

K. Venkatesh Prasad, group and senior technical leader, Vehicle Design and Infotronics, Ford Research and Innovation

“Imagine you live in India, own a Ford Figo and love the game of cricket,” explained Prasad. “Now imagine that you could purchase a $30 community cricket module from your local Ford dealer that was designed by a local developer and approved by Ford. This module plugs into a master control board in your car and your Figo 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.”

“Open innovation platforms give communities globally the power to customize and personalize their products. As an added benefit, it also frees manufacturers, like Ford, from investing in, building and deploying low-volume highly customized vehicles for specific markets – while opening up opportunities for other manufacturers to create value-added products and services for Ford vehicles,” said Bug Labs’ Semmelhack.

“We have given connectivity to millions of drivers with SYNC, but we know that one size does not fit all and that limiting ourselves to one connectivity model is not going to sustain us going forward,” said Prasad. “OpenXC gives us the ultimate sandbox to play in, where we can collaborate with technology innovators such as Bug Labs, share ideas with the crowd, and then test out our theories together so as those billions of drivers around the world start demanding more connectivity in the car, Ford will be best positioned to deliver it to them.”

While the OpenXC platform shows much potential for Ford in emerging markets where a low-cost value connectivity solution is vital, the concept is also giving Ford the freedom to explore other business models as well:

  • Distribution – The ability to sell or rent hardware and software modules through local dealerships and/or other aftermarket distribution channels
  • Developer Resources – Creating certified open innovation toolkits and SDKs for developers that make innovation, app development, payment and distribution more seamless
  • App Stores – Launching an app store model, where certified developers can offer up their Ford-approved innovations to consumers, who can buy them in a safe and fun environment”

Bug Labs from CES 2011 in the Verizon booth:

About Daniel Davenport

Daniel is a digital media executive with internet and broadcast experience. Daniel is currently the executive strategy director at THINK Interactive.

2 Responses to “Ford, Bug Labs & OpenXC”

  1. What is really needed is the ability to read the diagonstic codes at the lowest level. This would allow the car to report issues itself and independent repair shops to fix the cars. While we have that capability today it is typically controlled by a proprietary system and the hardware is costly.

    • Good point Alan – the dealerships would hate that kind of situation but if Ford is really pursuing an open framework that would seem to be a logical option.

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