Toyota is considering adopting rival Ford’s open-source device API that allows drivers to plug their smartphone into a car and control it through their dashboard.

Ford’s protocol, called SmartDeviceLink (SDL), is an open source version of its Ford AppLink.

Android Auto, Apple's CarPlay and RealVNC are players in the car entertainment market ©Ford CES
Android Auto, Apple's CarPlay and RealVNC are players in the car entertainment market ©Ford CES

If Toyota decides to implement the technology, it will be deployed by its subsidiary Livio, into future Toyota and Lexus cars.

Its current infotainment system, called Entune, is proprietary and only allows a limited number of mobile apps -- such as Bing and Pandora -- to be used via a USB-connected smartphone. 

SmartDeviceLink competes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as a smartphone-mirroring API for car infotainment systems. SDL, however, can be customised by each automaker to have a unique-looking interface.

Toyota and Ford first agreed to collaborate on the development of standards for in-car telematics in 2011. Toyota said today's announcement builds on that earlier collaboration.

"The in-car app market is quickly evolving. Developing robust, flexible, safe and user-friendly connected services is a priority for us, and one that we believe is shared by Ford, Livio and other contributors to SDL technology," Shigeki Terashi, Toyota's senior managing officer, said in a statement.

Ford vehicles with the Sync infotainment system use AppLink as the application programming interface that allows smartphone apps such as Spotify, Glympse, iHeartRadio, Pandora and others to be accessed by drivers.

Ford created SmartDeviceLink by contributing the AppLink software to the open-source community. The carmaker rolled the API out in 2013. 

"Dashboard interface design and smartphone connectivity are key elements for product differentiation within the industry," Don Butler, executive director of Ford Connected Vehicle and Services, said in a statement. "We're pleased other members of the industry feel the same way, and look forward to working together to drive even more support for the SDL developer community."