Industryweek 13871 Smartdevicelink Consortium

Ford, Toyota Form Telematics Bloc to Stymie Google and Apple

Jan. 4, 2017
The consortium’s goal is to promote more choice in how smartphones get connected to in-vehicle technologies like dashboard displays and voice recognition.

Ford Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp. have formed a consortium with four medium-size automakers to speed development of auto-industry standards for in-vehicle apps, a step toward preventing Apple Inc. and Google from controlling how drivers connect smartphones to their cars and trucks.

Ford (IW 500/4) and Toyota (IW 1000/6) said that Mazda Motor Corp., PSA Group, Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. and Suzuki Motor Corp. joined their SmartDeviceLink Consortium. The non-profit 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 Wednesday.

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 offers them on all its 2017 model vehicles. But the No. 2 U.S. 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 GmbH, Luxoft Holding Inc., and Xevo Inc. also joined the consortium, according to the statement. Honda Motor Co. had contemplated the move but wasn’t mentioned in Wednesday’s announcement.

Carmakers, auto industry suppliers and technology companies such as cloud computing specialists are forming a range of partnerships to develop autonomous cars and vehicles that can communicate over the Internet. On Wednesday, Peugeot-maker PSA, communications-equipment manufacturer Ericsson AB and French phone company Orange SA said they’ve agreed to try using 5G wireless technology to improve self-driving features and road safety. Updating Internet access is crucial in helping autonomous cars gather and exchange information about street conditions and traffic.

2011 Telematics Deal

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 5 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.

By John Lippert

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