Regardless of the NHTSA’s views, the use of smartphones in vehicles is a rising trend. A recent J.D. Power and Associates survey on emerging technologies showed that 86 percent of smartphone owners admit to using them in their vehicles.
As an automaker, Ford has to walk a fine line between building products that customers want to buy and building products that the government deems safe. When it comes to in-vehicle smartphone integration, one way Ford is serving both masters is a product called SYNC AppLink.
Launched in the 2011 Ford Fiesta, AppLink integrates with Ford’s own SYNC system and allows the hands-free use of certain smartphone apps. Today, that list of available applications is limited to Pandora, for music streaming from iPhones, Android phones or Blackberry phones; Stitcher, for news feed streaming from iPhones (and Android devices later this summer); and OpenBeak, a tweet reader available only for BlackBerry phones.
For 2011, AppLink is only available on the Fiesta, but that will change as Ford expands AppLink to ten vehicles for 2012. Beginning next year, Ford will roll out the AppLink feature for SYNC-equipped Mustang, Shelby GT500, Fusion, Fusion Hybrid, Fiesta, F-150, F-150 SVT Raptor, Super Duty, Expedition and E-Series models. The number of available applications is expected to grow rapidly as well, since Ford is reviewing submissions from some 2,500 independent app developers. Categories under consideration include apps that provide personal entertainment, personalized news, location-based information (i.e., nearby business searches), alerts regarding vehicle data and GPS data (i.e., routing around traffic jams) and planning apps that might advise if a scheduled flight had been delayed or cancelled.
To show how serious Ford is about the growth of connected services in their vehicles, they’ve announced a massive worldwide hiring blitz, focused on their Connected Services Solutions Organization. Worldwide, Ford expect to quadruple this group in the next four years; in the United States, this group is expected to see a threefold increase in personnel over the same time frame.
[Ford, via All Car Tech]