Ford's SmartDeviceLink (SDL) – an open source software – allows drivers to access smartphone apps via the dashboard touch screen or even voice control. Toyota will be adopting the feature for upcoming vehicles, Ford said in a statement ahead of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas on Monday.
The move highlights the pressure felt by some automakers to protect their industry from being dictated to by the likes of Apple and Google. Both companies have their own in-car software. Apple's CarPlay and Google's Android Auto both allow consumers to mirror their smartphone screen on the dashboard and use apps while driving.
Interestingly, in a separate announcement ahead of CES, Ford said it would allow its vehicles to be compatible with Apple's CarPlay and Google's Android Auto, highlighting how it is not as defensive as other auto giants.
Last year, Fords' executive director of connected vehicle and services Don Butler told CNBC that the carmaker needs to think more like a "software of services company" and said being "open and inviting" to partnerships will be key. Executive chairman Bill Ford also said that Apple and Google's push into the auto sector was "awesome".
But still, Ford's open source SDL is a bid to offer an alternative to automakers not willing to open their doors to U.S. technology companies. Essentially, Ford wants to create an industry standard for the future of connected cars.
"Ford is making the software available as open-source, because customers throughout the industry benefit if everybody speaks one language," Butler said in a press release on Monday.
Spotify and iHeartRadio are among several smartphone apps that have been integrated with Ford's SDL software, allowing drivers to control them via the dashboard and with voice recognition.
Continuing to get large automakers to adopt SDL will help Ford's appeal to app makers who will need to integrate their apps with the software.