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Toyota/Ford move to set standards for in-car apps

Standard connection: Ford and Toyota, as well as Mazda, Suzuki, PSA and Subaru, have teamed up to standardise smartphone connectivity to vehicles in a bid to improve user experience.

Big name car-makers join forces to improve vehicle connectivity with SmartDeviceLink

5 Jan 2017

GLOBAL automotive giants Ford and Toyota have announced they are establishing a not-for-profit consortium to oversee open source software development for in-vehicle smartphone apps.

To be known as SmartDeviceLink, the consortium’s stated goal is to focus “on significantly increasing choice for consumers in how they connect and control their smartphone apps on the road”.

The main benefits of adopting an open source approach will be giving car manufacturers, hardware suppliers and app developers a uniform standard as a basis from which to integrate their various apps.

This should leave app developers free to concentrate on making better apps rather than worrying about how they will integrate their latest widget into a particular car-maker’s proprietary software.

Ford global director of connected vehicles and services – and director of the new consortium – Doug VanDagens said the collaboration will allow for better experiences for users.

“Encouraging innovation is at the centre of Ford’s decision to create SmartDeviceLink and this consortium is a major step toward that goal,” he said.

“Consumers will win with new, innovative app experiences from increased collaboration and developer engagement.”

Easier and more standardised integration of apps will see better interaction with in-vehicle technology such as the central display screen, steering wheel controls and voice recognition.

While potentially being more user-friendly, the move should also increase the security of the software.

Should the SmartDeviceLink achieve a high level of acceptance across the industry, app developers will also benefit from much bigger economies of scale as successful apps could be much more readily integrated into the global carpark.

Toyota Connected Company president Shigeki Tomoyama said SmartDeviceLink will enhance the connection between vehicle and smartphone.

“Connectivity between smartphones and the vehicle interface is one of the most important connected services,” he said.

“Using SmartDeviceLink, we can provide this service to our customers in a safe and secure manner. We are excited to collaborate with many auto manufacturers and suppliers who share our view.”

SmartDeviceLink technology is largely based on Ford’s AppLink software, which is currently in use in some five million vehicles around the world.

Other members of the new consortium include car-makers Mazda Motor Corporation, the PSA Group, Fuji Heavy Industries and Suzuki Motor Corporation, as well as suppliers Elektrobit, Luxoft, and Xevo.

Companies that have signed Letters of Intent to join the consortium include Harman, Panasonic, Pioneer and QNX.

Toyota plans to commercialise a telematics system using SmartDeviceLink in 2018. Popular apps such as Pandora, Spotify, iHeartRadio, AccuWeather and others are already available to Ford AppLink users.

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