Toyota joins Ford’s open-source dashboard system for “just works” in-car listening

ford cars smartphones 300wToyota announced that it was joining Ford’s SDL project, an open-source solution to connecting mobile apps to digital dashboards. We spoke to Scott Burnell, Global Lead of Business Development and Partner Management at Ford, for context around this announcement.

SDL is SmartDeviceLink, the open-source version of Ford’s AppLink, which was a proprietary piece of code which, when added to a mobile app, made that app controllable in Ford’s AppLink-equipped vehicles. Taking the phone out of the driver’s hands, and implementing other safety restrictions on app use, made listening to personalized music feasible for people using different mobile platforms — Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS in particular.

Google and Apple are well along in developing their own phone-powered dashboard solutions, and many carmakers are involved in both initiatives. New cars with factory-installed Android Auto or Apple CarPlay features began rolling onto the roads this year. Ford’s open SDL system counters the closed systems that Google and Apple are seeking to place in cars.

Scott Burnell told RAIN News that SDL’s advantage favors all three parties in the digital dashboard value chain — app developers (like streaming music platforms), automakers (like Ford and Toyota), and drivers (like you). App developers can implement a single batch of code instead of multiple protocols. Car companies can retain control of the appearance and branding of their infotainment screens. Drivers can bring (potentially) any smartphone into any SDL-equipped car and use their apps.

“For end users the solution ‘just works’,” Burnell told us.

Ford created AppLink from SDL. Toyota will also build on the open SDL platform, and its end product will be called Entune. Other unannounced car companies are involved, and any automaker can join.


Brad Hill