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Ford-Toyota collaboration on telematics could be a win-win for consumers

Ford and Toyota say they will be collaborating on telematics. It's a long-shot request, but it would be nice if the same voice command changed the radio in Ford and Toyota vehicles.

It's not just hybrid power trains for SUVs and pickups that Ford and Toyota will join forces on: the two mainstream car makers will also be collaborating on telematics.

In a taped video news release, Derrick Kuzak, group vice president of Global Product Development for Ford, said that by working with Toyota, Ford will be able to make in-vehicle telematics more affordable to consumers, and help bring new features to market. The two companies will be working together on Bluetooth and Wi-Fi standards in vehicles, and will also standardize on chipsets to lower volume pricing. However, Kuzak said that the telematics user experience for Ford customers will continue to be unique.

That could be a good thing for Ford, which has earned a solid lead over other manufacturers with its Sync platform. But it could also have its drawbacks; the MyFord Touch and MyLincoln Touch infotainment systems have a steep learning curve. There are lessons Ford probably could learn from Toyota's Entune, which seems a lot more intuitive, offers more seamlessly integrated mobile apps, and uses Windows Azure to recognize voice commands. But the real opportunity is the chance to standardize on a single platform and make consumers' lives a lot easier.