Ford is increasing the number of smartphone functions that can be controlled from car interfaces by adding support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and introducing more apps for its Sync in-vehicle connectivity system.
Apple CarPlay and Google's Android Auto have been designed for users to be able to continue to use their phones to access information and make calls from the vehicle's native interface while driving, by connecting the phone to the car.
The car company is adding these capabilities in line with its strategy to provide higher integration between car functions and smartphone apps. It aims for example to use its Sync Connect technology to let users remotely lock and unlock cars, check fuel levels, and locate and start a vehicle using a smartphone.
Apple CarPlay added to Sync will give iPhone users access to maps, messages, phone calls and music through Siri voice control or a touch screen, while Android Auto will allow for easier access to Google's services like voice search, maps and music streaming through steering wheel controls and a touch screen, Ford said Monday.
The company's aim with this integration is to let customers "bring the smartphone technology they’re comfortable with into a vehicle and use it without hassle,” Don Butler, Ford executive director for Connected Vehicle and Services, said in a statement.
The announcement comes ahead of the CES show this week at Las Vegas, where a number of automakers are expected to put on display technologies that automate a number of car functions. Some of them are expected to offer technologies from Apple and Google.
Ford also announced Monday new Sync AppLink applications that use voice-activated technology for a hands-free bridge between the user and smartphone applications. The new apps include Concur for trip records, Eventseeker to find new nearby music events, and Cityseeker that uses vehicle GPS data to locate restaurants, nightlife and other nearby attractions in over 500 cities.
Ford is making Apple CarPlay and Android Auto available on all 2017 vehicles equipped with Sync 3 in North America, starting with the all-new Ford Escape. Owners of 2016 vehicles equipped with Sync 3 will get an opportunity to upgrade "later in the year," the company said without providing details.
The carmaker claims there are more than 15 million Sync-equipped vehicles on roads around the world currently, with 43 million expected by 2020. The company said in 2014 that it had moved Sync to BlackBerry's QNX operating system from Microsoft's Embedded Automotive OS.