Ford Motor Co. is working to offer drivers a way to upgrade the electronics in their vehicles, much the same way they can add applications to their iPhones and BlackBerrys.
The car maker hopes to persuade software developers to tap the Internet service, GPS location-finding capability and digital-music setup already found in its Sync entertainment-and-communications system, which it developed with Microsoft Corp.
Such applications, or "apps," might do such things as give directions to every espresso shop along a highway open after 9 p.m., or allow friends to follow one another to a location through a GPS process called "breadcrumbing."
The move is part of a broader revolution in automotive technology toward making cars as customizable and upgradeable as smart phones and laptop computers through applications.
Auto makers aim to persuade customers to continue to spend money on their cars after they buy them by upgrading the vehicles' technology, especially for small cars that often are unprofitable. Car makers also could gain revenue from application developers, much as AppleInc. collects fees from developers of apps for its iPhones and iPods.
Ford is in the process of allowing other companies and software developers to adapt smart-phone applications for use in its vehicles, as well as letting developers create car-specific apps. The car maker hopes the move will lure tech-savvy customers who will be more likely to pay for pricey features.
In one of the first steps, Ford is expected to announce Thursday that it will make available the basic computer coding needed to write software compatible with its Sync system.