The software-enabled cars of the near-future (industrial Internet links)

Ford's OpenXC platform opens up real-time drivetrain data.

OpenXC (Ford Motor) — Ford has taken a significant step in turning its cars into platforms for innovative developers. OpenXC goes beyond the Ford Developer Program, which opens up audio and navigation features, and lets developers get their hands on drivetrain and auto-body data via the on-board diagnostic port. Once you’ve built the vehicle interface from open-source parts, you can use outside intelligence — code running on an Android device — to analyze vehicle data.

Of course, as outside software gets closer to the drivetrain, security becomes more important. OpenXC is read-only at the moment, and it promises “proper hardware isolation to ensure you can’t ‘brick’ your $20,000 investment in a car.”

Still, there are plenty of sophisticated data-machine tieups that developers could build with read-only access to the drivetrain: think of apps that help drivers get better fuel economy by changing their acceleration or, eventually, apps that optimize battery cycles in electric vehicles.

Drivers with Full Hands Get a Backup: The Car (New York Times) — John Markoff takes a look at automatic driver aides — tools like dynamic cruise control and collision-avoidance warnings that represent something of a middle ground between driverless cars and completely manual vehicles. Some features like these have been around for years, many of them using ultrasonic proximity sensors. But some of these are special, and illustrative of an important element of the industrial Internet: they rely on computer vision like Google’s driverless car. Software is taking over some kinds of machine intelligence that had previously resided in specialized hardware, and it’s creating new kinds of intelligence that hadn’t existed in cars at all.


This is a post in our industrial Internet series, an ongoing exploration of big machines and big data. The series is produced as part of a collaboration between O’Reilly and GE.

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  • floatingbones

    I got up to speed on this tech by listening to Leo Laporte’s interview with John Ellis of developer.ford.com (interview at http://twit.tv/show/twit-live-specials/152 ).

    One thing that raised flags for me: Ford is providing this API in order to give a marketing advantage to Ford cars; they have no interest in providing a platform for Chevys or Toyotas. Further, Ford is providing an API for iOS, Android, and is seriously investigating platforms for Windows 8 and Blackberry 10 platforms. If other auto companies start offering similar-but-different APIs, we will wind up with a literal tower of babel in this marketplace. Even if the majority of these X-Y platforms have secured APIs and rock-solid program administration, odds are high that some of them would have some serious problems.

    As a whole over the entire industry, APIs in read-only mode have limited utility; APIs where the software can alter the automobile’s systems will have a large risk of some malware attack.