Googling the nearest gas station, sending email from your smartphone or booking a table at a restaurant: Those are all things you shouldn’t do while driving. But so many drivers have grown accustomed to their on-the-go tasks that automakers are increasingly trying to make those things easier to pull off with both hands on the wheel and both eyes on the road.
As General Motors and Ford commissioned ideas from app makers this week, the possibilities for what you can do with your vehicle’s steering wheel buttons, microphone, speakers and internal gauges are expanding quickly.
How would you like to choose your favorite tune by simply uttering the song’s title, turn your car into a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot or respond to an ad you hear on the radio without lifting a finger?
At the International Consumer Electronics Show, General Motors and Ford launched programs that will open their designs to developers, inviting them to create software applications for future car models. It’s a relatively new strategy for carmakers, but one that many gadget manufacturers employ, including Apple, which did it for the original iPhone in 2007.
The programs free the automakers from having to keep pace with new technologies by tying the functionality of their cars’ internal systems to advances in smartphones.
Ford Motor Co.’s app-developer program, called Sync AppLink, “is a way for [the company] not to worry about the next big app,” said product manager Julius Marchwicki.
General Motors Co. said its framework “gives developers a whole new sandbox, with wheels.”