Ford partners with companies to boost technology

Melissa Burden, Michael Wayland, and Keith Laing
The Detroit News

Ford Motor Co. is partnering with Amazon, Samsung and Sygic to offer new technologies that will work on the touchscreens of 2018 model-year vehicles equipped with the company’s SYNC 3 system. In addition, Ford and Toyota Motor Corp. are forming a nonprofit consortium to focus on developing an industry standard for in-vehicle apps.

Ford announced Wednesday it is teaming with Amazon to make the company’s cloud-based voice service known as Alexa compatible with cars that have Ford’s SYNC 3 vehicle touchscreen.

The company said it also partnering with Samsung to allow drivers who own Samsung Gear S2 or S3 smartwatches to integrate their devices to receive parking reminders and audible alerts to remain attentive while driving. Ford is additionally partnering with Sygic, a Slovakian company, to allow its GPS navigation app to work on the SYNC 3 touchscreens.

Ford made the announcements in Las Vegas at the technology trade show CES, formerly the Consumer Electronics Show.

The company touted the partnerships as an effort to reduce distracted driving by allowing drivers to use voice commands while they are on the road instead of picking up their cell phones.

Sygic is the first GPS app company to partner with Ford and has more than 150 million users globally. Its app, available to iOS and Android smartphone users, is available in more than 200 countries and 40 languages.

The Sygic Car Navigation app has been designed to work with Ford’s SYNC 3 vehicle touchscreen. Once a phone is paired to the vehicle through a USB cable, control of the app leaves the phone and is projected onto the vehicle screen. Users will be able to use voice controls, Sygic and Ford said.

The consortium between Ford and Toyota announced Wednesday will work to manage an open-source software platform with the goal of “giving consumers more choice in how they connect and control their smartphone apps on the road,” officials said.

Open source means companies provide source, or base, code of a program to the public to let them use and modify the code from its original design. It’s commonly used in the tech world to inspire innovation and new ideas for software.

Mazda Motor Corp., PSA Group, Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. and Suzuki Motor Corp. are the first automaker consortium members. Elektrobit, Luxoft and Xevo are the first supplier members. Harman and QNX have signed letters of intent to join.

The name of the consortium comes from SmartDeviceLink, an open-source program Ford launched in 2013 as AppLink. It 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.

The Dearborn-based automaker says adopting the open-source platform gives companies a “uniform standard” with which to integrate apps. Developers benefit because they can focus on creating the best experience for customers by integrating one linking solution for use by all participating automakers.

“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 of 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.”

Consumers, according to officials, also benefit because developers and automakers working together will contribute improvements to the open-source code — increasing the quality and security of the software.

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