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Toyota joins Ford's infotainment fight against Google, Apple

Ford's open-source smartphone interface is starting to gain some pace.

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Ford is determined not to let Google and Apple dictate its vehicle dashboards and now has a big partner. Toyota has agreed to adopt Ford's open-source SmartDeviceLink (SDL) interface software, letting drivers access its Entune infotainment system. SDL allows smartphone-native apps, like GPS navigation, to run on vehicle infotainment systems (it's a open-source version of Ford's AppLink). Auto parts supplier QNX, owned by BlackBerry, has also signed on to the standard, And Ford said that Peugeot Citroën, Honda, Mazda and Subaru are considering it, too.

Toyota is one of the few automakers that doesn't offer Apple's CarPlay or Android Auto systems and said last year that it has no plans to change that. Ford's own Sync 3 in-dash system will soon play with with CarPlay and Android Auto apps starting with 2017 models. However, Ford CEO Mark Fields previously told Re/Code that "we don't want to end up (like) the handset business ... we want to make sure you are not pushed into a decision on a $40,000 car based on your $200 smartphone." As such, the company is trying to be flexible by giving users an Android Auto or CarPlay option, but also having its own smartphone link system.

Ford's Sync3 in-dash entertainment system

Ford figured that by open-sourcing its SmartDeviceLink tech, it would help get automakers on board, which would in turn bring in app developers. That approach seems to be working, and Ford now figures that 30 million-plus vehicles will use the tech by 2020. However, automakers would do well to remember how Google and Apple got into the game in the first place. Car manufacturers work at a much slower pace than smartphone and app developers, and their stabs at infotainment systems have often been dismal. Meanwhile, reviews on CarPlay and Android Auto have generally been positive.

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