In a move that appears aimed at consolidating OEM control of in-car personal connectivity apps and keeping Apple and Google at bay, Ford and Toyota have announced they are working together on standards for a new telematics platform.

Ford and Toyota said that Mazda, PSA Group, Fuji Heavy Industries (Subaru) and Suzuki have also joined their ‘SmartDeviceLink’ consortium described as a “nonprofit to manage open source software for smartphone app development for vehicles.”

Suppliers Elektrobit, Luxoft, and Xevo have also joined the consortium as the first supplier members, while Harman, Panasonic, Pioneer and QNX have signed Letters of Intent to join.

SmartDeviceLink provides consumers ‘easy access’ to smartphone apps using voice commands and in-vehicle displays. Adopting the open source platform gives automakers and suppliers a uniform standard with which to integrate apps, the companies said.

“Encouraging innovation is at the center of Ford’s decision to create SmartDeviceLink, and this consortium is a major step toward that goal,” said Doug VanDagens, global director, Ford Connected Vehicle and Services, and a board member of the consortium. “Consumers will win with new, innovative app experiences from increased collaboration and developer engagement.”

Shigeki Tomoyama, president of Toyota’s Connected Company said: “Connectivity between smartphones and the vehicle interface is one of the most important connected services. Using SmartDeviceLink, 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.”

SmartDeviceLink enables smartphone app developers to 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 favourite apps on the road in an enhanced, user-friendly way, it is claimed.

Consumers will also benefit because developers and automakers working together will contribute improvements to the open source code – increasing the quality and security of the software.

Industry-wide adoption of SmartDeviceLink is expected to give app developers broad scale as their innovations could be applied to millions of vehicles worldwide.

Participating companies and suppliers will be able to deliver user experiences that meet their individual standards while retaining control over how much access apps have to vehicle data.

SmartDeviceLink technology is based on Ford’s contribution of its AppLink software to the open source community in 2013. Ford AppLink software is currently available on more than 5 million vehicles globally.

Toyota plans to commercialise a telematics system using SDL around 2018.

Popular apps such as Pandora, Spotify, iHeartRadio, AccuWeather and others are already available to Ford AppLink users.

Ford subsidiary Livio will manage the open source project and provide guidance to the SmartDeviceLink Consortium and its members.