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Toyota studies Ford SmartDeviceLink tech

Toyota is studying a bit of technology from Ford that it believes will aid in the development of car connectivity features.

The carmaker says it will “explore collaboration” with Ford subsidiary Livio, to use its SmartDeviceLink (SDL) app interface on future models for both the main Toyota brand and Lexus.

SDL is essentially an open-source version of Ford’s Sync AppLink, the interface that allows Ford infotainment systems to connect with smartphone-based apps such as Spotify and Pandora.

Ford has pursued SDL in the hopes that app developers will give the same attention to cars that they do to smartphones. The company launched an app-development program back in 2013, and offered developers access to the AppLink software through the industry-backed GENIVI Alliance.

The SDL platform helps facilitate this by making it easier for developers to create software for cars. It allows them to design an app only once, but then deploy it on multiple infotainment systems.

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The software allows access to in-vehicle controls, including display screens, buttons, and voice recognition. On the other end it communicates with apps only, rather than with the devices themselves.

While everything controlling the apps is standardized, developers can still customize the appearance and “overall look and feel” of apps, according to Ford. That may be one of the most important aspects of car-specific apps.

Carmakers take considerable pains to emphasize specific brand attributes, even when it comes to different brands from the same company that may share major mechanical components. And that’s likely to remain as true with software as it is with styling or steering feel.

Toyota did not say exactly what plans it had for SDL, but if the Japanese carmaker likes what it sees the platform could underpin infotainment systems for new models in the coming years.

The agreement follows a previous collaboration between Ford and Toyota, first announced in August 2011, to develop new standards for in-car telematics.