Ford CTO: Google auto alliance a step forward, even if we're not joining

At CES, we've seen new, competing smart-car "standards" announced, and multiple manufacturers tying their data-enabled cars to specific carriers. Ford CTO Paul Mascarenas shares his thoughts on these developments -- and they might surprise you.

Paul Mascarenas has been CTO at Ford for over three years now. Compared to the long history of the automobile that's barely a blip, yet these past three years have seen major advancements in the sorts of technology installed and offered inside a modern car. Many manufacturers have added more intelligence to their cars since 2010 than they did in the 10 years previous.

Not Ford. That isn't to say that the company hasn't made huge progress over the past three years, as it surely has, but the company was well ahead of the curve when it introduced Sync in 2007. While other manufacturers have had some catching up to do with their smart cars, Ford seems to be focusing on filling in the blanks.

At this year's International CES the company knocked out a few more, rolling out Sync AppLink capability to 3.4 million cars -- though sadly the service, which allows smartphone apps to talk directly to the car, still isn't compatible with the latest MyFord Touch-equipped vehicles. This update also enhances AppLink functionality on newer cars, allowing smartphone apps to read key data from the car, things like speed and fuel consumption.
(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET) 
This will, in theory, greatly extend the functionality of these apps and Ford hopes this, plus a coder-focused conference this summer, will woo more app developers to support the company's cars. By extension, they'd be supporting the nascent Smart Device Link API, which the Blue Oval has positioned as an industry standard. (A standard strengthened by Ford's recent acquisition of Livio). However, it's far from the only standard out there, and at this year's CES a few more were thrown on the pile.

Far and away the most talked about of these fledgling interfaces came from Google. The Open Auto Alliance (or OAA) is "committed to bringing the Android platform to cars starting in 2014," and while exactly what that means remains unclear, it's readily apparent that Ford is not among the initial members of this group (which currently includes GM, Audi, Honda, and Hyundai).

From the outside, this certainly looks like a competing option to Ford's Smart Device Link, but Mascarenas isn't bothered. "I don't think in any way it's frustrating. If anything it's good for the industry. It avoids fragmentation and takes complexity out of things. Just like we're promoting AppLink as an industry standard it takes complexity out for the developers...We're very happy with what we're doing, with our work with the Livio guys, but we're open to work with others as well."

GM signing on to the OAA means that one company offers at least three separate app platforms, a situation that must give its own developers headaches, never mind those on the outside.
The areas of smartphone connectivity and smart cars are, you see, still so rough that any attempt at standardization actually managing to bring multiple manufacturers together is a step forward. That's despite some of these steps creating some interesting internal conflict. General Motors, for example, already relies on Livio's API for its Spark and just launched its own Connected by OnStar initiative for HTML5-based in-car apps. GM signing on to the OAA means that one company offers at least three separate app platforms, a situation that must give its own developers headaches, never mind those on the outside.
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About Doru Somcutean

Hello, my name is Somcutean Doru and I'm from Romania.

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