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Is the car of the future open source?

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Is the car of the future open source?

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The modular approach to design is one that is familiar to many of us.  What started out as a methodology used by the open source software movement has spread firmly into the mainstream.  Increasingly, sites such as Facebook and Twitter, and of course the mobile platforms from Apple and Google, are opened up to allow third party developers to build applications and add-ons for them.

A rather more unusual use for such an approach however is in car design.  That is until Ford launched their Open XC system earlier this year.

The system was developed because Ford cars were producing all of this data that was essentially being wasted.  Historically however, access to this data has been restricted, with what wasn’t wasted being protected by the manufacturer.  Open XC wants to change that and allow developers access to this data to develop add-ons.

For instance, developers can gain access to speedo readouts or access the cars GPS system, both of which could help improve GPS systems and enhance traffic information in real time.

Ford are, for the time being at least, hoping that external developers will do cool things with this data rather than Ford themselves.  Whilst it is a pretty cool move, it is worth adding that, at the moment at least, Ford aren’t allowing developers to send data back to the cars.  So there’s no chance of applications directly interacting with the car’s systems.  For the time being the company believe this represents too much of a security risk.

The OpenXC project is operated by a small 10 person team in Silicon Valley, but if the project takes off as the company hopes it too, it could have pretty far reaching implications, not just for Ford but for the entire car industry.  We already seem on an unstoppable march towards driverless vehicles, and a big part of that will be allowing the data from cars to talk to one another.

Whilst at the time of writing no one has really turned this into a business, it seems only a matter of time.

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