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

Cars have come a long way since the Model T. Technology now allows your car to play music off your iPhone, to tell you how to parallel park, and to alert you when you’re about to bump into a shopping cart as you’re backing out. If Ford and New York City-based Bug Labs have anything to say about it, your car will soon be able to do much more: compare your fuel economy to that of your friends, measure your biometrics as your drive, or even alert you to the presence of allergens in the air.

“Think of the car of the future as a mobile computer on wheels, and these are the attachments,” says Peter Semmelhack, founder and CEO of Bug Labs. “The idea is a crowd-sourced, bottom-up approach.”

The two companies announced this week that they will team up in a joint development project to research and distribute open-source developer tools to advance in-car connectivity innovation. Known as “OpenXC,” the research platform will transform the car into a docking station for interchangeable plug-and-play hardware and software modules. Functions change with the addition or deletion of modules, giving owners the freedom to continually customize their vehicles.

Last week, at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco, the two companies demonstrated a socially-networked in-car fuel economy monitor that connected to the Internet via BUGswarm, Bug Labs’ cloud-based service.

“The crowd was made up of VCs, geeks, and bloggers, and the response was terrific,” Semmelhack says. “We didn’t go in expecting to hit any metrics, but we’ve already been approached by investors.”

Turning developers loose on open-source tools is a win-win proposition, Semmelhack says. “Ford isn’t … Next Page »

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