Toyota, PSA & Ford in SmartDeviceLink alliance to block Google and Apple

January 05, 2017

Toyota and Ford have formed a bloc to speed up development of industry standards for in-vehicle apps in order to block the threat of Google and Apple controlling how drivers connect smartphones to their vehicles. 

Four other manufacturers have now joined the bloc, called SmartDeviceLink, which aims to enable more choice in how smartphones are connected to vehicle technologies such as dashboard displays, steering wheel controls and voice recognition. 

The move comes as Toyota has resisted offering Google’s Android Auto and Apple’s CarPlay in its vehicles, ostensibly due to concerns that doing so would compromise safety and security. Toyota wants to wait until standards are developed so more players can get involved. 

Carmakers fear that if CarPlay and Android Auto dominate early and establish themselves as the only two must-have options, Apple and Google will develop a powerful influence over the industry. With the digital user interface set to become a core aspect and key differentiator in the driver experience, this could risk the car itself being seen as a utility secondary to the Google/Apple controlled user experience, undermining the manufacturers’ business model. 

President of Toyota Connected Company Shigeki Tomoyama said: ‘Connectivity between smartphones and the vehicle interface is one of the most important connected services.’ 

Ford has taken a different approach, and offers Android Auto and CarPlay on all its 2017 vehicle models. However, the carmaker still wants an open-source software platform that all app developers can use as an alternative to those of Apple and Google. 

‘Encouraging innovation is at the center of Ford’s decision,’ said global director of Ford Connected Vehicles and Services, Doug VanDagens. 

Mazda, Suzuki and Fuji Heavy Industries have also joined the alliance, with Honda having contemplated the move. Suppliers Panasonic, Pioneer, Harman and QNX have signed intent to join the not-for-profit alliance, alongside current members Elektrobit Automotive, Luxoft Holding and Xevo. 

SmartDeviceLink centres around ‘significantly increasing choice for consumers in how they connect and control their smartphone apps on the road.’ The organisation aims to manage an open source software platform, which will encourage innovation by being more flexible than Apple and Google-controlled platforms and encourage more players to get involved. 

Data security is certainly a key concern for the connected car and the open source nature of SmartDeviceLink would allow a wide community to contribute to increasing its security. Participating manufacturers and suppliers will also be able to retain how much access apps have to vehicle data, boosting security and privacy concerns. It could also act as an intermediary to the contentious world of access to vehicle data, in addition to carmakers looking for additional revenue streams, with industries from insurance companies to advertisers including Google competing for access. 

SmartDeviceLink is based on Ford’s open source AppLink software, which currently makes popular apps such as Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio and AccuWeather available in its cars. 

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