Toyota joins Ford against Apple-Google car screen dominance


Toyota Motor Corp. agreed to use a car-phone connectivity system championed by Ford Motor Co. in a bid to keep Apple Inc. and Google from dominating control of dashboards.

Toyota will introduce a telematics system with Ford’s SmartDeviceLink, an open platform that the automakers are inviting their peers to adopt for in-car applications, it said in a statement.

Toyota has resisted offering Apple’s CarPlay and Google’s Android Auto, citing safety and security concerns, while Ford is offering them as apps within its Sync connectivity system this year.

“Developing a safer and more secure in-car smartphone connectivity service which better matches individual vehicle features is exactly the value and advantage an automaker can offer customers,” Shigeki Terashi, a Toyota executive vice president, said in the statement.

Ford said Honda Motor Co., Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd.’s Subaru, Mazda Motor Corp. and Peugeot SA also are investigating SmartDeviceLink.

The deal shows two of the world’s largest automakers remain wary about giving Apple and Google too much control over displays that IHS Automotive estimates will generate $18.6 billion in sales by 2021.

For Toyota, which is involved in another system called MirrorLink that competes with the two tech giants, the collaboration with Ford suggest the company is hedging its bets on car connectivity options.

Consumer awareness of CarPlay and Android Auto “really does fundamentally change what consumers want out of that system in their center stack,” said Jeremy Carlson, an IHS Automotive analyst. Apple and Google will deliver “most likely the biggest disruption to in-vehicle infotainment systems in the history of automotive.”

Ahead of this week’s Consumer Electronics Show, Toyota also said it will equip U.S. vehicles with data communication modules next year that connect cars with cellular networks. The modules will enable a system that notifies authorities when air bags deploy due to traffic accidents.

Toyota first agreed to collaborate with Ford on car telematics systems in 2011 and said in June last year that it was exploring SmartDeviceLink for its vehicles.

MirrorLink, which lets drivers run navigation and entertainment apps on their smartphones using large icons on their dashboard screens, was created by the Car Connectivity Consortium, a group of carmakers and phone manufacturers including Volkswagen AG, General Motors Co., Hyundai Motor Co., Samsung Electronics Co. and HTC Corp.

“We want 25 nav apps, we want 15 music players, we want things that people haven’t even thought of to come to this space,” Alan Ewing, the consortium’s president, said in an interview. Whereas Apple and Google are “not there to create an environment for app developers to do cool things. They’re there to enable their own businesses.”

IHS Automotive has estimated that adoption of MirrorLink will trail behind CarPlay and Android Auto, citing limited consumer familiarity.