Ford launches app developer program for its cars

The AppLink SDK will allow developers to write custom apps for the car's voice-controlled computer

Ford opened its voice-activated systems to programmers Monday with an application developer program for vehicles that it announced at the International CES.

Ford is the first car maker to provide an SDK to the developer community for its vehicles, underscoring the importance of software in vehicles and the ways that technology can improve safety.

"Opening the car to developers gives consumers a direct voice and hand in the creation of apps that can help our products remain relevant, up to date and valuable to our customers," said Hau Thai-Tang, vice president of engineering at Ford Global Product Development.

The SDK is the latest in a series of voice-activated advances from Ford. The company introduced Sync in 2007 as a partnership with Microsoft. It allowed drivers to accomplish basic tasks by voice, such as making a phone call, getting a weather forecast or changing a radio station. In 2010, Ford introduced Sync AppLink, which provided voice command of popular mobile applications like Pandora and iHeartRadio.

The new SDK builds on AppLink. More than three dozen AppLink-compatible applications have been developed and are publicly available for iOS and Android devices, Ford said.

Interested app developers can download the AppLink SDK at Ford's developer portal. In addition to the technical documentation, developers will also have technical support access from Ford engineers and online discussion forums to trade tips and ideas.

There are three main categories for AppLink-enabled apps: news and information; music and entertainment; navigation and location.

Developers will submit applications for review by Ford engineers who will ensure that the apps work correctly. Ford will also work with developers to provide distribution licenses, after which apps will be submitted to the relevant marketplace.

Automotive technology has exploded at the International CES in the past few years, with an entire hall dedicated to that market. Besides Ford's news Monday, Toyota unveiled technology that brings it a step closer to an autonomous car.

CES kicks off less than a week before the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

Nick Barber covers general technology news in both text and video for IDG News Service. E-mail him at Nick_Barber@idg.com and follow him on Twitter at @nickjb.

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Tags mobilesoftwaremobile applicationsapplication developmentindustry verticalsCESDevelopment toolsAutomotiveFord Motor Company

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