Ford Motor Co. last month announced a new batch of apps aimed at helping motorists reserve a parking space, receive allergy alerts, share their location with friends — even order a pizza.
The pizza app is clearly out-of-the-box thinking, but another Ford initiative also will draw close scrutiny from infotainment insiders.
This quarter, the company is providing third-party app designers access to vehicle data — such as speed, location and acceleration — generated by the redesigned EcoSport crossover, which is to go on sale in June in Europe.
Software developers can use this blizzard of information — sometimes called big data — to design apps for Ford vehicle owners, assuming the automaker OKs them.
For example, app developers could use a vehicle’s speed or location to design parental controls.
Ford will roll out this data-sharing feature in other models as they get redesigns or face-lifts, said Doug VanDagens, Ford’s global director of connected services. “This is our first attempt,” VanDagens said. “It’s been released in Europe, and it’s coming to North America in the not-too-distant future.”
To prevent mishaps, VanDagens says Ford also is introducing a kill switch that allows the automaker to remotely shut down any troublesome app — even if motorists already are using it.
VanDagens: Ford has kill switch.
Thus, Ford is taking a belt-and-suspenders approach to apps that might cause driver distraction. The automaker already previews apps to make sure they are safe to use. If the software developer later adds a troublesome tweak to the app, Ford can shut it down.
The kill switch gives Ford sufficient confidence to share vehicle data with software developers. And that is important to automakers, which view the connected car as a potential treasure trove of data.
So it’s worthwhile to monitor Ford’s experiences with big data because the company has been an early adopter of infotainment technology.
Ford introduced Ford Sync in 2007 and MyFord Touch in 2010. Despite mixed reviews of MyFord Touch, the automaker has forged ahead with an expanded menu of apps.
According to VanDagens, Ford was the first automotive customer for 50 of its 66 infotainment software partners. And if anyone has any doubt about Ford’s commitment to infotainment, consider the venue the automaker chose to unveil the freshened 2015 Ford Focus, which goes on sale in the second half of the year.
The car made its debut at the Mobile World Congress, a four-day mobile phone convention last month in Barcelona, Spain, that drew thousands of participants.
“We like the attention that we get when we are the lead automaker,” VanDagens said. “We also use these shows to attract developers. We’ve started a lot of relationships at these events.”