Technology On The Horizon: Apps are now major features in cars
In the third part of a five-part series at top innovations from this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, Technology reporter Adam Balkin shows us cars are trying harder than ever to become more like cellphones.
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LAS VEGAS — Car dashboards are more and more resembling smart phone screens. The big difference is that cars that offer apps typically have just a dozen or so to choose from, whereas phones have access to hundreds of thousands of apps.
The two big U.S. auto companies are trying to close that gap a bit, as Ford has announced at the Consumer Electronics Show a program to bring in more third-party or outside apps.
"It allows developers access to the Ford Sync program and develop applications customers can use with their smartphones inside Ford vehicles," says Hau Thai-Tang of Ford.
General Motors is working on an almost identical plan. It even brought 450 developers to Las Vegas for a giant "hackathon," a 36-hour event trying to come up with the next great in-car app.
"Really fresh ideas coming from these developers about how to really personalize and really make the vehicle your own, so that’s what we're really excited about. You know, we're General Motors and we're thinking about the car, they're thinking about the car in a different way," says Steve Schwinke of General Motors.
Those with app envy thinking of all the apps in their friends' cars can turn to a company called Livio. It is trying to change not only the number of apps for cars, but is trying to make them available for any car that is app-enabled.
The Livio app is one app that can live on any car head unit. Right now, just Chevy is onboard with its Spark. Through that Livio app, one can access dozens, even hundreds of car-friendly apps sent to that screen from the phone.
"What we're doing is saying you have 14 apps on your phone and you want to use them in your car. All you have to do is sync your phone through USB, Wi-Fi, or Bluetooth and suddenly you have access to your phone through your stereo," says Nicole Yelland of Livio.
Livio, Chevy and Ford all insist though while they are looking for more apps they will only support those that allow the driver to safely perform their main task while in the car — driving.