Hack This Ford

Gary S. Vasilash

Last week—hard on the heels of his keynote at CES—Paul Mascarenas, Ford vice president and chief technical officer, said, “Ford is committed to innovating with the help of software and now hardware developers. By connecting cars and trucks to wireless networks, and giving unheard-of access to vehicle data, entirely new application categories and hardware modules can be explored—safety, energy, efficiency, sharing, health—the list goes on. OpenXC gives developers and researchers the tools they need to get involved.”

2013 Ford F-150 Lariat


It’s the open-source hardware and software research platform that Ford Research and Innovation developed along with Bug Labs.

Mascarenas’s comments were made while announcing that OpenXC is now out of beta and available at http://openxcplatform.com/

Essentially, OpenXC includes a vehicle interface module that can be used to read data from a vehicle’s internal communication network (note well that this is a read-only system, so it’s not like this can be used to affect the vehicle control system). This data can then be used to help provide custom hardware and software applications for vehicles.


Ford has identified three development areas that OpenXC can facilitate:

Big data: Not only is there an abundance of data being generated by the multitudinous sensors that are in vehicles, which can help personalization of individual cars and trucks, but by accumulating data from vehicles on the road, this can be used to help minimize things like traffic congestion.

Open-source innovation: While there have been a multitude of apps developed for use in SYNC-equipped cars and trucks from Ford, OpenXC can help make app development more widespread.

User experience: An on-going concern in vehicles is the user interfaces that are being developed: there is a concern with overloading the driver with too much information. An open-source approach can help solve this issue.

“We are enabling independent developers to flesh out their ideas using affordable and accessible hardware and software tools,” Mascarenas said.

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