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Hackers at work so Ford can play

By Barry Park, 04 Jun 2014 News

Hackers at work so Ford can play

Aussie-made smartphone software to feature in Ford’s future line-up

AS FORD Australia works on the last updates to the locally made Falcon and Territory range, a small group of computer hackers has been quietly working away under the bonnet.

However, rather than hack the lines of computer code hidden away inside the cars in the name of evil, the group has been working away at developing a series of helpful in-car apps that will blur the line between car and smartphone.

When it rolls out across Ford-badged vehicles in August, the locally coded software will plug into Ford’s Sync system as AppLink apps. These will will push to an in-car screen and function like smartphone applications, allowing drivers to control functions using their voice rather than pushing a button.

Ford is remaining coy as to exactly what Australian-flavoured apps will be available in its cars when the software appears, but a recent hackfest in Melbourne, where Ford Australia challenged software developers to write an app in a single day, gives some clues.

Ford Australia brand communications associate Martin Gunsberg told Wheels that the work of local hackers would feature on the in-car screens.

“We have been working with local developers and we will have Australian-designed and developed apps available from launch,” Mr Gunsberg said.

“We will announce our local app partners as part of the local AppLink launch in the third quarter of this year.”

Apps developed at Ford’s Australian hackathon held over a 24-hour period in December include a Russian dash-cam style app that records on-road incidents, and a fuel-finding app that can sense a car’s location and point the driver to the cheapest petrol station.

Ford Australia plans to hold a second Dipped in Blue day (the name for its showcase that gives clues as to the direction its technology will turn) in August to reveal the apps, and the Australian development teams behind them.

A Ford Australia spokesman said the locally made apps that would feature in its cars skewed towards assisting the driver rather than making driving more fun.

A less feature-packed version of Sync is already available in Ford-badged cars including the Fiesta city car and the closely related EcoSport SUV, as well as the small-sized Focus and its closely related Kuga SUV.

It will reach the locally made Falcon and Territory line-up from November, ahead of the car maker’s October 2017 deadline to quit Australian manufacturing, and will feature in the all-new Mondeo mid-sizer due in January next year.

The software will be added to vehicles already fitted with the Sync software as a running change to the models.

Ford’s Broadmeadows and You Yangs-based research and development arm is one of four of the car maker’s development hubs worldwide.