Toyota leads automaker pack adopting Ford's open source entertainment software

Toyota ​announced Monday plans to adopt SmartDeviceLink in its cars, with Honda, Mazda and Subaru close to making the same decision.
Written by Natalie Gagliordi, Contributor

Ford's open-source entertainment software project SmartDeviceLink just gained some major support from rival automakers.

Toyota announced Monday plans to adopt the technology in its cars, with Honda, Mazda and Subaru close to making the same decision. Automotive suppliers QNX Software Systems and UIEvolution will also adopt the technology.

SmartDeviceLink allows drivers to interface with apps on their smartphone via the dashboard displays and voice recognition features in their vehicle. Toyota and Ford contend that by adopting the technology as an additional industry standard, developers will create more apps for in-vehicle use.

"The true benefit of a common smartphone app communications interface is that it creates an industry standard - enabling great experiences for customers while allowing different companies the freedom to differentiate their individual brands," said Don Butler, Ford executive director, Connected Vehicle and Services, in a prepared statement. "Ford is making the software available as open-source, because customers throughout the industry benefit if everybody speaks one language."

SmartDeviceLink is similar to Apple CarPlay and Google's Android Auto initiatives, which Ford said it plans to make available to all Sync 3-equipped vehicles this year. Sync 3 is the automaker's BlackBerry QNX-based infotainment system that it announced last year as the replacement for MyFord Touch.

Looking at the bigger picture, all of the software canoodling among automakers signals a shift in how cars will be judged and purchased by consumers. According to a recent McKinsey report on the industry, the more cars are integrated with software technologies, the more infotainment, active safety and interface will win over customers.

For auto manufacturers, the more software standards they support, the more they can appeal to consumers with various smartphone types. While it's still too early to tell if one platform will emerge as a leader, Ford predicts that some 28 million vehicles will support SmartDeviceLink by 2020.

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