Toyota eyes Ford's latest smartphone interface

Toyota is exploring whether to use Ford's open-source, mobile device API, called SmartDeviceLink.

Toyota announced today that it may adopt the SmartDeviceLink (SDL) protocol, which is the open-source version of Ford's smartphone-linking technology called Ford AppLink.

Toyota would integrate SDL into its infotainment system, allowing drivers to command and control smartphone apps through dashboard buttons, display screens and voice recognition.

SDL competes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as a smartphone-mirroring API for car infotainment systems. SDL, however, can be customized by each automaker to have a unique-looking interface.

Toyota' current infotainment system, called Entune, is proprietary and only allows a limited number of mobile apps -- such as Bing and Pandora -- to be used via a USB-connected smartphone.

Specifically, Toyota is collaborating with Livio, a Ford subsidiary, for the implementation of SDL technology in future Toyota and Lexus vehicles.

In 2011, Toyota and Ford agreed to collaborate on the development of standards for in-car telematics. Toyota said today's announcement builds on that earlier collaboration.

"The in-car app market is quickly evolving. Developing robust, flexible, safe and user-friendly connected services is a priority for us, and one that we believe is shared by Ford, Livio and other contributors to SDL technology," Shigeki Terashi, Toyota's senior managing officer, said in a statement.

Ford vehicles with the Sync infotainment system use AppLink as the application programming interface that allows smartphone apps such as Spotify, Glympse, iHeartRadio, Pandora and others to be accessed by drivers.

Ford created SmartDeviceLink by contributing the AppLink software to the open-source community. The carmaker rolled the API out in 2013.

"Dashboard interface design and smartphone connectivity are key elements for product differentiation within the industry," Don Butler, executive director of Ford Connected Vehicle and Services, said in a statement. "We're pleased other members of the industry feel the same way, and look forward to working together to drive even more support for the SDL developer community."

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