By on January 9, 2013

Ford will be giving away its SYNC AppLink to any automaker or Tier 1 supplier, as it looks to make SYNC the standard for in-car connectivity systems.

By opening up the SYNC API (or Application Programming Interface) to other parties, Ford is hoping to ensure that SYNC becomes the dominant system, similar to how Google’s Android has entrenched itself as the leading mobile OS.

Wired Magazine’s Damon Lavrinc adroitly explains the significance of Ford’s announcement, and the impact it will have on the future of in-car infotainment

Every automaker features a different consumer-facing platform, so developers must work with a variety of APIs and SDKs[software development kits]. It’s annoying but doable for a massive outfit like Pandora, but damn near impossible for small developers. That’s where AppLink comes in. By offering AppLink to any automaker or Tier 1 supplier (the folks who build the hardware) and providing a universal API and SDK, Ford expands an app’s footprint across the industry and brings more developers into the Ford fold.

Of course, there are drawbacks; auto makers would have to cede control, moving from the systems they’ve spent time and money on, to one created by Ford. Bringing a competitor’s product into another OEM’s vehicle could also present a problem if an infotainment system has to have connectivity with something like a vehicle diagnostic system – as Lavrinc points out, that’s a boundary that no OEM is willing to tamper with.

On the other hand, there’s the less open approach that GM is taking, whereby it is making an SDK available for anyone interested in designing apps. This is more akin to Apple’s iOS system, and affords GM more control

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25 Comments on “Ford Opens Up SYNC To Any Interested Party...”


  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    From an IT professional, cars should not be computers, period. Its one thing for fuel injection, traction control, etc, but quite another when the whole car is controlled by a microprocessor. Just asking for trouble.

    • 0 avatar
      StaysCrunchy

      From a non-IT professional, I agree. I know it’s gonna make me sound like an octogenarian shaking his fist at those damn kids and their Nintendo Gameboys, but I pine for the days where adjusting the HVAC controls involved turning one of three knobs, and the steering wheel had an actual physical connection to the wheels.

      I’m not computer unsavvy by any means, but my thought is anything that (A) takes your concentration off the road in front of you, and/or (B) puts critical vehicle controls like steering and throttle at the mercy of a computer is bad.

      • 0 avatar
        morbo

        Hate to tell you this, but the entire (1st) world has more or less been running on microprocessers for the last 40 years or so. Planes, trains, and automobiles. Power plants, nuclear missile defense (and offense), and those damned Gameboys. Money isn’t money any more. it’ s a record in a bank’s database.

        We shouldn’t fear microprocessors. we should fear rushed, poorly designed, incompetent software testing.

        And an EMP bomb, as much as I hate admitting that that racist, lying, hypocrite from Georgia (Newt Gingrinch) might be right about worrying about EMP’s, given our society absolute reliance on them. I can’t even cook a meal in my oven without a microprocessor nowadays.

      • 0 avatar
        Robert.Walter

        All road-going cars & trucks still, by law, have an intermediate shaft, or eq. Making this connection.

        Elsewhere in the system, it is increasingly likely, there is an electric motor with a mind of its own providing power assist.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Wow look at the thread I started!

        All good points gentleman, but I think Morbo’s was my favorite:

        “we should fear rushed, poorly designed, incompetent software testing.”

        I would add “incompetent software design” to that sentiment as well. The EMP point is also something important I hadn’t thought of, but I’ll worry about that when it happens.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        “I pine for the days where adjusting the HVAC controls involved turning one of three knobs, and the steering wheel had an actual physical connection to the wheels.”

        Most vehicles still have regular buttons and knobs for HVAC controls, leaving the touch screen or voice interfaces as optional, so you can still choose. Only certain luxury vehicles may not give you the choice. There are still lots of people just like you who prefer traditional controls, so I woudln’t expect them to go away completely.

      • 0 avatar
        Greg Locock

        ” I pine for the days where … the steering wheel had an actual physical connection to the wheels.”

        Please identify one production car worldwide where this is not the case. Just one.

      • 0 avatar
        porschespeed

        As someone with a plasma screen laptop on a shelf powered by dual 640K floppies with 8K on the board that cost half a Honda Civic when new, there is NO commercial software but that which is that “we should fear rushed, poorly designed, incompetent software testing.”

        The consumer is always the ultimate beta-tester.

    • 0 avatar
      gmichaelj

      Maybe Ford just gets free programming for infotainment and gets new features faster than anyone else. With nobody touching the computers controlling the car’s driveline or saftey features.

    • 0 avatar
      tresmonos

      The closest thing to being critical that is controlled by the infotainment ‘microprocessor,’ is your HVAC controls, which has a seperate unit that controls the HVAC module and direct inputs leading to it, anyway. Other than that, the Sync module just communicates data from the cluster via a bus.

      Being afraid of non system critical components being controlled by pcb’s, yet feeling comfortable with your BCM/PCM doesn’t make sense. Maybe what you’re trying to express is that the Design and Product verification testing should be similar for a multimedia module as it should be for a PCM/BCM?

      Most multimedia modules can be replaced as easily as a BCM or PCM. Remove trim, unplug broken module, plug in new module. If anything, today’s multimedia components are more standardized and readily available that say the gigantic PCB’s that control my 1984 Continental’s wiz-bang interior options.

      Standardization of multimedia components industry wide would only benefit the garage mechanic by reinforcing the non-OEM aftermarket replacement parts industry.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      “From an IT professional, cars should not be computers, period. Its one thing for fuel injection, traction control, etc, but quite another when the whole car is controlled by a microprocessor. Just asking for trouble.”

      I agree with the sentiment, but not exactly the practice.

      How many computer/IT problems do you have with your microwave? Typically none, because it is a fixed, dedicated application–the programming is done, set, & never changes, which makes it suitably reliable.

      These infotainment systems with aps are different because they aren’t fixed. They are designed to modified, upgraded, etc. That’s why we are used to our desktops crashing–the software gets compromised/corrupted. THAT is the part that has no business being in cars.

      • 0 avatar
        rpn453

        “How many computer/IT problems do you have with your microwave? Typically none, because it is a fixed, dedicated application–the programming is done, set, & never changes, which makes it suitably reliable.”

        My Samsung microwave quits every few weeks while in operation – usually within the first few seconds of starting – and fills the display. I have to unplug it for a few seconds and plug it back in to get it to work properly again.

        Similarly, my buddy’s high-efficiency natural gas water heater also occasionally ceases to function – flashing some sort of malfunction light instead – but then works fine for a few weeks immediately after unplugging and plugging back in. Since it has left him without hot water a couple of times, he now has it on an external timer to shut it off for a minute or so every day at a certain time.

        I have two friends who have had televisions that occasionally turn on at random times, and one whose television occasionally randomly turns off.

        I don’t consider any of this stuff unusual. I could probably come up with quite a few more examples between my circle of friends and family if I thought about it for a while. I consider the electronics in vehicles to be surprisingly reliable compared to most other electronics.

      • 0 avatar
        porschespeed

        rpn453,

        In all seriousness, how the frak can a water heater be made complicated enough to be anything but stone-axe-bulletproof? Seriously. I’ve never heard of such things.

        Even taking into account variable energy rates, the household demand curve, calculating average usages and everything else, it’s the most primitive fuel injection computer since 1960-sumpthin’. Even the 70s models managed tens of thousands of hours of service.

        How does one screw up so badly as to design a water heater that doesn’t work flawlessly for decades?

      • 0 avatar
        rpn453

        No idea! My old-fashioned heater still uses a pilot light. I’m hoping those simple ones don’t get banned before it needs replacing. They’re less than half the cost, too. I installed that one myself for a total cost of around $300.

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    Does Fords approach mean that there will be no Siri interface button on the wheel?

  • avatar
    86SN2001

    So basically Ford is saying that they made crap, and needs outside programmers to do the job right.

    Sounds exactly like Ford.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I was under the impression Microsoft designed the original software but its possible they were paid just to use their semi-good name on something Ford cooked up.

    • 0 avatar
      DeaneTR

      Exactly… Oh an the whole thing about innovation with in-car entertainment. It’s NOT the future of internet-cars and it’s not going to be a meaningful market.

      In the next few years drive by wire, cars interconnecting/sharing telemetry, command & control / operation of vehicles without assistance, that will become common in just a few short years.

      I submit that Google’s licensing of it’s self-driving car innovations to manufacturers are where the real app market place is going to be created.

      For Ford to reiterate every year that their leading the charge to bring an app marketplace for entertainment in cars growsincreasingly unimpressive.

      The bull’s eye of course is an Android app marketplace that can actually improve your vehicle safety and reliability… I suppose there might be an iTunes market place for cars, but Apple doesn’t have Jobs to make it work anymore and Google is way, way ahead of Apple on this one.

      Hacking car code, rooting your car… it’s not only gonna get a foothold! But fewer and fewer of us will die each year in car accidents… :-)

    • 0 avatar
      01 ZX3

      Sync was critically acclaimed when it came out. MFT was/is the problem.

    • 0 avatar

      So basically, Apple and Google were saying that they made crap and needed outside programmers to do the job right when they made the iPhone and Android systems open to third party developers.

      You could say the same about Apple and Microsoft regarding their personal computer operating systems.

      I think the smartest route for automakers is to have a bulletproof minimalist infotainment system that controls basic functions and then let the aftermarket keep things up to date.

      • 0 avatar
        MeaCulpa

        As much as I hate to admit it – and trust me, I DO – that claim isn’t exactly of base regarding android. Slow as hell and needs an app for just about anything On the other hand the iPhone is an antique. A mobile version of windows 3.11, an icon for everything and folders are considered an update.

        Leaving that aside, by good does infotainment feel antiquated fast or what?

      • 0 avatar
        porschespeed

        Apple almost never supplies its source code, even under legal penalty for not doing so.

        Android, OTOH, is an open-source app with everything being public domain.

  • avatar
    solracer

    Will they give me a copy of the source code so I can rewrite it to actually work correctly? I’m getting real tired of having to pull the Sync fuse every two months on my Fiesta because it runs out of memory.


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