In a market where automotive software can be very hush-hush, Ford has released a new desktop tool that will help app developers with the process of creating apps for the Sync in-car entertainment system. The new software, Sync3 AppLink Emulator, lets developers who’ve so far worked in smartphone and mobile device apps recreate their product on the desktop in order to redesign it specifically for use in Ford vehicles.


Automakers have been working on the process of letting drivers integrate their apps for in-car use, meaning their dashboard screens essentially mirror their smartphone screens. It’s a far more marketable proposition than saying to customers, “If you buy our car, you have to learn to use our proprietary apps.” This kind of non-committal cross-over potential is a huge bonus, considering that so far, automakers have all relied on their own systems, even for things like voice activation. Even with the more recent incorporation of brand-specific infotainment systems–like Apple Carplay or Google Android Auto–has so far meant users bought their vehicles based on their loyalty to their mobile operating systems.

With AppLink Emulator, even more doors are opened for apps that drivers love. The potential for turning a car into a true mobile office, for example, rather than just a rolling box that contains all of the driver’s gear, goes up. Of course, the obvious concern is giving users the ability to play Candy Crush on their dashboard screens while they drive, but hopefully there’s a mechanism that will prevent certain apps from functioning onboard if the car is in motion. But some of the more interesting emulator functions for developers include the ability to simulate a vehicle actually in use, right down to the temperature inside the car; with the ability to set the vehicle’s speed while designing the auto version, maybe not.