LAS VEGAS — OpenCar, a Seattle startup run by a team of technology veterans, is coming out of stealth mode today by announcing a strategic partnership with Mazda. It’s the first public step in the startup’s effort to make it easier for developers to build apps for cars, and for automakers to adopt new apps.
Announced at CES today, the startup’s OpenCar Connect platform gives developers a set of APIs, tools and services to make apps that can work across a variety of vehicles from different automakers.
Starting with Mazda, automakers that work with OpenCar Connect will build profiles specific to each vehicle’s interface design, hardware controls, driver safety considerations, and other aspects of the car — allowing the apps to be easily customized for each vehicle.
The company describes OpenCar Connect as a standards-based, open platform. The idea is to enable a new class of apps for cars — moving beyond the current practice of simply bringing smartphone and tablet apps into vehicles.
Cars are “bristling with sensor output” that create opportunities for new apps, said Jeff Payne, the OpenCar founder and CEO, a RealNetworks veteran who previously founded Grid Networks.
“If you’re a software developer, that’s exciting. That’s the coolest thing in the world. You can come up with a lot of different ideas,” Payne said in a recent interview at the company’s offices in Seattle’s Pioneer Square. “But it needs to be normalized, and it needs to be accessible. It’s a whole world that they haven’t even thought about before.”
OpenCar, with 19 employees, was founded in 2011, and is self-funded through customer deals. With today’s announcement, the startup is aiming to get more automakers and developers on board with its platform. Financial terms of the Mazda deal weren’t disclosed.