Tuesday 15 January 2013

Ford and GM will give you the power of David Hasselhoff

American automotive legend Caroll Shelby once said, “Horsepower sells cars. Torque wins races.”

That may have been true in his heyday, but nowadays, horsepower isn’t the only thing pushing cars off the lot. People want tech. And General Motors and Ford are here to deliver.

This past week, both GM and Ford announced they will open up their on-board info-tainment systems to third-party developers.

I hope it's just like Night Rider
It’s about freaking time.

A car takes a whole lot longer to design and sell than the average mobile application. As it is now, most apps become quickly obsolete by the time the car is actually in your driveway. Third-party designed apps could be constantly changed and updated according to the latest innovations and trends.

But before you get too nervous, don’t worry. Angry Birds won’t be distracting that kid drifting into your lane. Both companies said they will restrict which apps can be adopted and promised no apps will be permitted that encourage distracted driving.

So how is this gonna work?

Ford’s program revolves around linking the driver’s smartphone with the car. The system will provide two-way communication between the car and the phone. Imagine streaming Pandora radio on your phone, but playing it through your car’s speakers and controlling it with the on-board controls. Pretty cool.

One of the big advantages here is that developers won’t need to develop apps for a new platform. Furthermore, drivers can easily take their apps with them when they switch vehicles.

GM will be launching an integrated platform for developers. That is – the apps will be stored and run from the on-board system. This might prove a little trickier for developers but could allow for more functionality. Imagine apps that work directly with the car’s electronics — allowing users to monitor things like speed, fuel consumption or perhaps even performance. Use your car for a little casual racing? GM’s system could allow for statistics and performance ratings.

Of course, with systems like these, there’s a lot of concern over the possibility of hacking. How much power would a hacker have if he could control your car? It’s safe to assume that vital functions will be well isolated from the on-board system, but certainly other risks could certainly pop up. Until we see exactly how the integration works, there’s no way to tell here.

Expect to see the new systems on most Ford and GM cars in 2014.

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