Ford has launched an open developer program for its in-car infotainment system at the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, making it the first car maker in the world to enable software developers to create apps for its vehicles.
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The Ford Developer Program utilises the manufacturer's Sync connectivity system and AppLink application programming interface to give developers the tools they need to create voice-activated apps designed to enhance the driving experience.

Vice president of engineering at Ford global product development, Hau Thai-Tang, said the program marked “a dramatic shift” in the way car makers could add new value and features to vehicles throughout the ownership period.

“Opening the car to developers gives consumers a direct voice and hand in the creation of apps that can help our products remain relevant, up to date and valuable to our customers,” he said.

Ford has been in a beta test with a group of developers to create a software development kit, and is now satisfied that the program is mature enough to open it up to developers around the world.

“The car presents an all-new opportunity for developers, especially the millennial market (those aged between 18-33), and we’re looking forward to seeing what results,” Thai-Tang said.

“Engaging innovators outside of the company is a key part of our strategy to be consumer-driven in all aspects of our business, helping us not only satisfy what’s going on today, but setting us up for innovative solutions to the challenges coming in the future.”

A recent Nielsen survey revealed there are more than one billion smartphone users in the world, and predicts that number will double by 2015. More than 55 billion apps have been downloaded from the leading digital markets.

A number of new AppLink-enabled apps have also been launched for Ford’s Sync-equipped vehicles in the US, including the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and Glympse, the latter of which allows drivers to update friends and family with their expected time of arrival using a real-time tracker to display their location on a dynamic map.

Ford Australia does not currently offer AppLink functionality in its Sync-equipped Fiesta and Focus models, but has confirmed that it is working hard to bring the technology to the market in the near future.