Dev

Welcome to the AppLink Lounge, where Ford is turning itself into a software company

This sponsored post is produced in conjunction with Ford. 

In a small, unassuming building well outside its headquarters in Dearborn, Mich., Ford Motor Company has set up a radical experiment in automotive development.

The AppLink Lounge is a laboratory for people — both within Ford and without — to experiment with extending Ford’s vehicles by building apps that work with Ford’s SYNC AppLink, an API that enables smartphone apps to utilize the controls and display available within Ford’s dashboards and steering wheels.

Best of all, for you tinker types, the AppLink Lounge is situated within the local branch of TechShop, a paradise for makers that’s filled with woodworking equipment, 3D printers, CNC routing machines, laser cutters, and more.

“Ford, for 110 years, has been pushing creativity — and in the last two years we decided that we wanted to push creativity in a whole new direction,” said John Ellis, the head of the Ford Developer Program. After reaching out to TechShop’s founders in California, Ford partnered with the company to open the TechShop location in Dearborn in May 2012.

Ford’s AppLink team and some of their partners frequently work here on apps — and eventually, Ellis says, AppLink development will be integrated into the curriculum of classes that TechShop offers.

Ellis talks about how Ford is no longer just customer-focused but is also now developer-focused — and why it open-sourced the technology behind AppLink. And he explains how he — a longtime Motorola exec and a self-avowed “software guy, not a car guy” — is helping Ford become even more innovative.

“Ford is becoming a software shop,” Ellis said. “It’s always been innovative … but now it’s becoming innovative in the digital space.”

With 100 million lines of code in the most recent model of the Taurus, Ellis said, the company is well on the way to becoming something far different than it was before.

“We’re looking for software developers,” Ellis said. “We’re looking for people who are excited about doing embedded, who are excited about creating things, and are excited about seeing those things manifested in some incredible bodies, like our Shelby, our Mustang GT, our Taurus.”


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