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Ford, Toyota team up to loosen Apple and Google's grip on smartphone connectivity

The automakers are among several forming a nonprofit to create more ways to take advantage of a smartphone in a car.

To give you an idea of how big a leap this is, not a single 2016 Ford vehicle has Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.

Right now, if you want to use smartphone apps in the car, your options are quite limited. But that could change with the introduction of an open-source software platform for that explicit purpose.

Ford, Toyota and a handful of other automakers have teamed up to form the nonprofit SmartDeviceLink Consortium. The group will work to develop an open-source software platform that aims to give smartphone users more choices for how their phones are utilized in the car.

Toyota is one of several automakers that are not rushing to add Apple CarPlay and Android Auto entertainment systems.


Suppliers are also getting involved. Harman, Panasonic, Pioneer and QNX have all signed letters of intent to join the group. Elektrobit Automotive, Luxoft Holding and Xevo are already part of the SmartDeviceLink Consortium.

The goal, or at least part of it, is to loosen the death grip that Apple's CarPlay and Google's Android Auto platforms currently have on the infotainment system. But whereas those environments are dictated entirely by the tech companies behind the systems, SmartDeviceLink Consortium believes its solution will offer superior security and quality by opening development up to multiple parties.

Toyota has remained a remarkable holdout against the onslaught of automakers offering Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Ford offers both as part of its Sync 3 infotainment system, which is available on all model-year 2017 vehicles.

"Encouraging innovation is at the center of Ford's decision to create SmartDeviceLink, and this consortium is a major step toward that goal," said Doug VanDagens, global director of Ford's Connected Vehicle and Services division. "Consumers will win with new, innovative app experiences from increased collaboration and developer engagement."

Stuff like this takes time to get together, so don't expect to see this open-source platform arriving this year. Toyota claims it'll have a telematics system incorporating SmartDeviceLink "around 2018."