What could be the most significant technology milestone in device standardization and connectivity global automotive makers were expecting came at the very start of 2017 and was initiated by Ford Motor Company and Toyota Motor Company
Towards the end of last week Ford and Toyota jointly announced the formation of the SmartDeviceLink (SDL) Consortium at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas—the most prestigious technology show of the year.
The SDL consortium is a nonprofit, set up to manage open source software for smartphone app and mobile devices development for vehicles. The Consortium is not limited to Ford and Toyota as Mazda Motor Corporation, Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. (FHI), the makers of Subaru and Suzuki Motor Corporation are also members. Automotive electronics suppliers Elektrobit, Luxoft, and Xevo are also members.
Ford has been actively pushing for the independent and interdependent development of an open source system to unite infotainment devices on cars. It has been contributing the core code of its powerful SYNC AppLink system to an open source project so that other automakers would also bring in their expertise and adopt the SDL open platform. It has been doing so for the past four years.
The announcement in Las Vegas is seen as a way to begin a meaningful cooperation between technology partners of the major car makers which will only benefit customers. An integrated system will not only mean better compatibility of devices but also adoption of technologies, not limited to what AppLink now has what and SDL can already provide.
With the SDL consortium in place and a standard implemented, a common software interface can be made so that developers can make apps that can be incorporated into vehicle’s touchscreen devices, controlled via the appropriate in-vehicle controls and even maximize sensors and data that can create a virtual “black box” with access to critical vehicle data such as engine condition, powertrain information, vehicle speed and location using the embedded GPS antenna.
In a statement to the media after the CES announcement Doug VanDagens, global director, Ford Connected Vehicle and Services, and a board member of the SDL Consortium said , “encouraging innovation is at the center of Ford’s decision to create SmartDeviceLink, and this consortium is a major step toward that goal.”
SDL goes beyond what Ford’s current products can already do with its Ford AppLink—a standard in Ford vehicles since 2013—currently available on more than 5 million vehicles globally. This system provides easy access to smartphone apps such as Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio and AccuWeather.
Adopting the open source platform gives automakers and suppliers a uniform standard with which to integrate apps, including the use of voice commands, in-vehicle displays, steering wheel controls.
SDL enables smartphone app developers to seamlessly integrate their app functions with in-vehicle technology such as the vehicle display screen, steering wheel controls and voice recognition. With this new level of integration, drivers enjoy their favorite apps on the road in an enhanced, user-friendly way.
Consumers also benefit because developers and automakers working together will contribute improvements to the open source code – increasing the quality and security of the software.
“Consumers will win with new, innovative app experiences from increased collaboration and developer engagement,” VanDagens emphasized.
Developers also benefit because they can focus on creating the best experience for customers by integrating one linking solution for use by all participating automakers.
Toyota plans to launch a new telematics system that integrates SDL next year but they won’t be alone as other members of the consortium are taking advantage of Ford’s open source code sharing to develop independently.
Shigeki Tomoyama, president of Toyota’s Connected Company said in a press statement, “connectivity between smartphones and the vehicle interface is one of the most important connected services. Using SDLk we can provide this service to our customers in a safe and secure manner. We are excited to collaborate with many auto manufacturers and suppliers who share our view.”
In last year’s CES, Ford introduced support and compatibility for Apple’s CarPlay and Google’s Android Auto for Sync 3 infotainment system for all its 2017 car models.