Ford worked with Applico to build the business case for a developer platform for the connected car and ended up acquiring Autonomic. This developer platform startup was ultimately the catalyst for Ford’s Transportation Mobility Cloud, their new business unit focused on generating digital revenue from the connected car.
The auto industry’s new competitors are large tech monopolies. Google’s Android Auto and Apple’s iOS CarPlay expand a car capabilities like a smartphone. Automakers have a choice: cede the digital market of cars to tech monopolies, or innovate. Ford decided to innovate. This decision is part of a greater strategy to generate digital revenue and develop digital affinity with customers who increasingly demand software capabilities across all devices.
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The modern automobile is a smart device all on its own, and has been for longer than Google’s and Apple’s ventures into the industry. The modern car has a built-in modem with the processing power necessary to keep the vehicle connected. With the right permission, users can locate a vehicle on a digital map, walk up to it, open it, drive it, and lock it, all without ever touching a key. Beyond keyless and remote ignition, cars can facilitate a wide range of applications, from satellite radio to navigation and more.
Some automakers are ahead of others in the race to own the connected smart car market, but undoubtedly every manufacturer is looking to have more (or all) of their vehicles connected over the next few years. The benefits of the connected car go beyond the ability to generate digital revenue. For example, the ability to push car software updates over-the-air is a big incentive for manufacturers, because doing so avoids the high costs associated with recalls.
But while the modern car is already a smart device, it pales in comparison to the smartphone. To bridge this gap, some automakers have partnered up with Google and Apple to outsource solutions rather than build their own platforms. But Ford was up for the challenge of embracing the smart car and transforming itself into a modern tech company.
There’s over $1 trillion worth of services that flow through the car every year in the United States. That’s the total tally of activities like renting a car on Turo or Getaround, refueling, maintenance, insurance, and much more.
All of these service providers want access to the connected car. It streamlines the service process while reducing costs and error. Currently, car service providers must go through an arduous process to access cars’ data. Each manufacturer has its own application and code-base that syncs poorly with third-party tools and software. And service providers only have access to these applications if they have a partnership deal with the automaker, which most service providers do not. For service providers, the lack of standardization is a costly nightmare that requires them to invest in multiple software and tools to service different manufacturer’s cars.
A single platform would standardize the process for all service providers.
Applico designed a development platform that gives third-party software developers access to the command & control APIs in the connected vehicle. We received commitments from the top developers in the space to participate in this new initiative. All pledge to pay a percent of revenue to Ford, and in the future, other automakers who join this platform.
In exchange, developers get access to a single platform with a standard API that they can integrate seamlessly with their applications. The platform enforces secured authentication and presents a single uniform API that has access to various command and control operations and vehicle data such as location, fuel level, and other essential parameters.
And of course, developers are further incentivized to join because through the platform they can access a large market of car owners and service providers.
As part of the result of Applico’s work, Ford acquired Silicon Valley-based Autonomic in 2018 and announced the Transportation Mobility Cloud.
Following Applico’s work facilitating the exchange of command, control, and data for external services, the next phase of platform development requires an operating system for the vehicle. Ford’s OS would enable many in-vehicle services, such as streaming audio and video and other productivity applications. The third stage would integrate with cities to efficiently manage traffic congestion and helps cities manage and design infrastructure to better support mobility for its citizens. In the near future, this capability would also integrate with the autonomous vehicle.
Moving forward, Ford will market the open platform to be adopted by partners including other automakers, public transit providers, and service operators including ride-hailing and ride-sharing companies.