Ford Buys Startup Livio, Eyes Smart Car Standards

The smart car revolution is gaining speed. On Thursday, Ford Motor Co. announced it has purchased the startup Livio, as it moves to boost the level of interaction between smart automobiles and smart mobile devices.

The Michigan-based Livio, founded in 2008 by a former employee of parts supplier Delphi, has developed software that connects smart devices through car radios or in-car infotainment systems. The acquisition price was under $10 million, according to Ford. Livio will continue to provide technology for other customers, including competing car makers like GM. Livio will become a subsidiary of Ford Global Technologies, which handles the company's intellectual property, and it will also form its own department within Ford Electrical/Electronic Systems Engineering.

Ford is already planning to equip up to seven million vehicles with its AppLink system by the end of 2015. AppLink provides access through voice recognition to a variety of services, including music services Pandora and Spotify, and Major League Baseball (MLB). Livio's current products include Livio Radio, connecting iPhones to car stereos in cars that do not have auxiliary inputs, and the Livio Car Connect API for allowing smartphone apps to work with a car's system and apps.

Smarter Than Drivers

Aside from coordination between apps that offer entertainment or information, Ford and other car makers -- plus Google -- are in the process of making the vehicles smarter than their drivers, with a wider rollout of automatic parking, and experiments in avoidance monitoring via Wi-Fi between cars, in automated driving and with apps that monitor the health condition of the driver.

Jake Sigal, Livio's founder, told Newsday that the acquisition will help the development of a single standard for in-car connectivity and apps. Currently, the state of smart cars is like the very earliest days of computers or smartphones, when there was a wide variety of platforms,...

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