Ford And Toyota Forms Alliance

BY Azfar Hashim

In a move to prevent both Google and Apple from conquering in-vehicle apps, Ford and Toyota have stepped in together to form a telematics alliance

Source: Bloomberg, Automotive News. Images: Burnpavement.com Archive

Ford Motor Company and Toyota Motor Corporation have formed a consortium with four other automakers to speed development of auto-industry standards for in-vehicle apps, a step toward preventing Apple and Google from controlling how drivers connect smartphones to their vehicles. Ford and Toyota said that Mazda Motor, PSA Group, Fuji Heavy Industries and Suzuki Motor have joined their SmartDeviceLink Consortium.

The nonprofit group's goal is to promote more choice in how smartphones get connected to in-vehicle technologies like dashboard displays and voice recognition, and in other programming, Ford and Toyota said in a joint statement. Toyota has resisted offering Apple's CarPlay and Google's Android Auto in its vehicles, citing concern that doing so would diminish safety and security. Ford, on the other hand, offers them on all its 2017 model vehicles; but the automaker still wants an open-source software platform that all app developers can use as an alternative to those of Google and Apple. "Encouraging innovation is at the center of Ford's decision," said Doug VanDagens, global director of Ford Connected Vehicles and Services.

Suppliers Elektrobit Automotive, Luxoft Holding and Xevo also joined the consortium. Honda Motor is contemplating the move but was not mentioned at time of announcement. Harman, Panasonic, Pioneer and QNX have signed letters of intent to join, the statement said.

Toyota first agreed to collaborate with Ford on car telematics systems in 2011. The automakers worry that if CarPlay and Android Auto establish themselves as 'must-have options', the influence of Apple and Google over the industry will grow. Ford's version of the SmartDeviceLink technology is already available on five million vehicles globally, and provides drivers with popular apps like Pandora, Spotify, iHeartRadio, and AccuWeather.

By enlarging the consortium, the automakers hope to maintain control over how much access infotainment apps have to vehicle data, according to the statement. "We are excited to collaborate with many auto manufacturers who share our view," said Shigeki Tomoyama, president of Toyota's Connected Company.