Many of us in the electronics industry are still scrambling to locate the turf where amateur hobbyists/tinkerers find common ground with professional engineers. Ford recently developed its Open XC platform. But what's in it for Ford?
Speaking of the new mandate for backup cameras announced last week by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Nelson said, "If you have a webcam, Velcro, a very long USB cable connected to a tablet, it's not hard to develop your own, open-source backup camera."
Other open-source application examples Nelson listed during his speech are: programming a car to start automatically playing rain-related music when a car's windshield wipers are on; or a driver starts hearing calming music during a traffic jam, "so he will have no road rage."
The truth is that Ford is keenly aware that automakers' infotainment systems will probably always lag behind smartphones, because of the long life vehicles need to maintain. Meanwhile, cars these days come with a large number of sensor nodes. Ford engineers are hoping for the emergence of brand new apps, if such sensor data becomes accessible to developers. In the end, Ford just wants to see what consumers might end up creating once open platforms like OpenXC become available.
Orange County Choppers
Nelson grew up in Peoria, Ill., where he and his cousin put together a custom go-kart, à la the Orange County Choppers. They reused most of the parts and components savaged from Nelson's once-totaled go-kart. His passion and enthusiasm as a lifelong tinkerer made his speech all the more fascinating.
Custom go-kart Nelson and his cousin put together
That's when it hit me. The intersection of makers and professional engineers can only happen when professional engineers are free to mix with -- and inspire -- the far-flung community of makers. This vision was the spirit of Nelson's keynote speech.
All you need are a host device (PC or tablet) and dongle-style vehicle interface.
— Junko Yoshida, Chief International Correspondent, EE Times