Xia Yiping(Joe) led the smart car projects like SYNC Applink and SmartDeviceLink at Ford. Applink enables drivers to control mobile apps from supported smartphones, which is embedded with Applink SDK, through voice commands or radio buttons on the steering wheel. Ford now is developing a China market-targeted SmartDeviceLink, an open-source version of Applink, together with leading Chinese mapping service providers Baidu and AutoNavi(an Alibaba company).

Xia, based in Shanghai, China, now is product planning and development manager at the division of connected services of Ford Asia Pacific. He came up with the idea of OpenCarLab, an open-source car project, as recently as in last month.

But he has managed to gather several founding members including pioneers in the movement of revolutionary cars that emerged in China not very long ago — largely thanks to the Tesla hype; among them include newly emerged smart vehicle makers Qinggan and YOUXIA, smart in-car system developer PATEO, car rental service Yongche, and mapping service Amap of AutoNavi.

Like what you can imagine for an open-source vehicle project, opencarlab covers both hardware and software, ranging from design, human-machine interface, chassis, in-car connections, to battery management system. Mr. Xia said at an event yesterday that he was inspired by the Phonebloks project hoping eventually users can get do-it-yourself cars with open-source parts and software developed by contributors on OpenCarLab.

opencarlab.org hasn’t been launched yet. The near-term goal, according to Xia, is to have existing cars integrate services powered by the-Internet-of-cars technologies; the mid-term goal is to enable users to do it yourself assembling cars with hardware and software from the platform; the long-term goal is powering future cars which may be totally different from the current ones.

Open-source car projects began emerging as early as in 1990’s. Some are still in concept stage. The Internet may encourage more open-source software for in-car connections, which sounds more feasible than the previous ideas.

Tracey Xiang

Tracey Xiang is Beijing, China-based tech writer. Reach her at traceyxiang@gmail.com

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