Ford takes on Apple in smart dashboard wars

January 4, 2016 10:04 AM

Toyota Motor Corp and Ford Motor Co said on Monday they will adopt the same software to link smartphone apps to vehicle dashboard screens and invited other automakers to join them to counter Apple Inc and Google's push to control cars of the future.

Toyota, the world's largest automaker by vehicle sales, and Ford, the No. 2 U.S. automaker, said they will adopt a Ford-developed software called SmartDeviceLink, or SDL, as the standard for connecting smartphone apps to vehicle dashboard screens.

SDL technology integrates smartphones apps with vehicles through dashboard buttons, display screens and voice recognition technology. Using it as a standard for projecting navigation or music streaming apps from a driver’s smartphone could help Ford and Toyota reduce dependence on Apple or Alphabet Inc's Google, company officials said.

It could also keep tighter control of customer data and the brand-defining look and feel of dashboard infotainment systems, they added.

Adopting a connectivity standard not linked to Apple or Google may help automakers in China, the world’s largest auto market, where homegrown companies such as Alibaba Group Holding Ltd are major players in mobile mapping and services. Google has a limited presence in China, although the company has signaled it could expand there.

Ford said France’s Peugeot SA and Japanese automakers Honda Motor Co , Subaru and Mazda Motor Corp are also investigating adopting SDL as a standard. QNX Software Systems and UIEvolution, developers of automotive connectivity technology, also are adopting SDL, the automaker said.

QNX, a unit of Canada’s Blackberry Ltd, designs infotainment system software used by 40 automakers.

The Ford-Toyota tie-in follows the purchase late last year by a consortium of German automakers of HERE, a mobile mapping business formerly owned by Finland’s Nokia. Daimler AG, BMW AG and Volkswagen AG’s Audi brand say they will use HERE as a foundation for new connectivity services and features.

Mapping is critical to autonomous driving systems, which the German luxury car makers intend to roll out over the next few years.

Apple and Google bring formidable weapons to the rapidly evolving battle for control of connected cars.

The Silicon Valley giants have armies of programmers, bulging cash reserves and deep experience in managing and profiting from consumer data.

Even as they maneuver to avoid becoming beholden to them, many automakers are adopting Apple’s CarPlay and Google’s Android Auto systems to respond to customer demands for better connections between cars and smartphones.


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