Highlighting the importance of technology in cars going forward, Ford’s SmartDeviceLink technology, an open source version of AppLink, will now be added to Toyota’s vehicles. The software is designed to give drivers command and control of smartphone apps through dashboard buttons, display screens and even voice recognition.
Growing importance of connectivity in cars
Reportedly, Honda, Mazda, Peugeot Citroën, and Subaru are considering adding the software too, as automakers clamber to offer the latest tech to customers.
In-car infotainment systems have historically had a bad reputation due to a slow release of updates and being difficult to use. The growth of third party companies such as Apple and Google in this sector, whose tech is in use by car manufacturers such as BMW and Hyundai, has hinted at a shift in customer demand – software add-ons should come from reputable tech firms.
Ford’s smart car strategy
Along with pushing other automakers to use its software, the company is also adding Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Late last year, Ford enabled Siri Eyes-Free support in cars with Sync.
Early 2016, Ford said it would expand Sync by adding Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, 4G LTE, and several new AppLink apps.
Later this year, Ford says it will introduce the next version of AppLink based on SmartDeviceLink software, an upgrade that will let owners access their favourite compatible navigation app – similar to how they might do on a smartphone.
SmartDeviceLink is maintained by Ford’s subsidiary Livio.
Autonomous test vehicles
In separate news from the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Ford announced that it will be tripling its fleet of fully autonomous Ford Fusion Hybrid test vehicles.
The announcement highlight Ford’s push to move beyond being company that merely makes and sells cars.
The company intends to add 20 Fusion Hybrid autonomous vehicles this year, bringing the total to 30 cars being tested on roads in California, Arizona, and Michigan.
“Using the most advanced technology and expanding our test fleet are clear signs of our commitment to make autonomous vehicles available for millions of people,” said Raj Nair, Ford Executive Vice President, Global Product Development, and Chief Technical Officer. “With more autonomous vehicles on the road, we are accelerating the development of software algorithms that serve to make our vehicles even smarter.”
Advances in software, hardware and sensing
In a recent statement, Ford said it is using Velodyne’s newest LiDAR sensors – named Solid-State Hybrid Ultra PUCK™ Auto for its hockey puck-like size and shape – on its third-generation autonomous vehicle platform.
The sensors boast a longer range of 200 m, making them the first auto-specific LiDAR sensors capable of handling different driving scenarios, and their lightweight design means Ford will be able to easily incorporate it into vehicle design – such as on the sideview mirror.
The design means Ford can reduce the amount of LiDAR sensors from four to two on new Fusion Hybrid autonomous vehicles, and get as much useful data due to the more targeted field of view.
The vehicle’s hardware systems, which interact continuously with the virtual driver, are equally important.
Third-generation autonomous Fusion Hybrid sedans will have supplemental features and duplicate wiring for power, steering and brakes. These supplemental features will act as backups, if needed.
Fully autonomous driving is still a while away, but for now Ford’s continuous deliver semi-autonomous features to its customers, such as adaptive cruise control and lane-departure warning.
Edited from sources by Cecilia Rehn.