This sponsored post is produced in conjunction with Ford.

Ever feel like hacking a car? Ford wants you to do just that — with its Open XC platform. We caught up with T.J. Giuli, the research lab leader at Ford Motor Company’s Silicon Valley Lab, to find out more about car hacking.

He works on OpenXC, which is sort of an API for your car. When you install a small module in your car, a flood of data generated by the vehicle becomes accessible to Android applications using the Open XC framework. “What we really want to be able to do is give people the same kind of accessibility that they used to have for tinkering with their car,” Giuli says in this video produced by VentureBeat. “With OpenXC, we are trying to bring that same kind of spirit of tinkering back tot he general public.” The data available is real-time, and read-only (so evil hackers can’t disable the antilock brakes or turn your car off while it’s running at highway speed). And there’s a ton of it — which gives hardware hackers and app developers a lot to work with.

For example, one Ford engineer used Open XC to create a haptic shift knob that can buzz at you when it’s time to shift — helpful if you’re learning to drive stick, or want to optimize your engine torque when driving on a track. This engineer took an actuator from an Xbox 360 controller and put it into a screw-on knob that you can put on top of your existing shift stick. Its circuitry talks with Android and with the OpenXC module to get engine data and translate it into vibrations that can signal you when the engine is at the optimal RPM. And because OpenXC is an open-source platform, the engineer open-sourced the CAD files for the knob, the PCB circuit board, and the code to run it, so anyone who wants to can replicate his project. Like the idea of hacking cars with custom hardware and software?

There will be lots of chances to do that at the DevBeat conference next week in San Francisco. It’s a hands-on developer event packed with master classes, presentations, Q&As — and a hardware “makeathon” that will even give you a chance to work directly with automotive tech from Ford. Register for DevBeat now, and if you qualify, you may even be able to attend for free.

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