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Toyota, Ford lead group linking cars with smartphones

New consortium is outgrowth of SmartDeviceLink collaboration

LAS VEGAS -- Ford Motor of the U.S. and Japan's Toyota Motor will work with four other automakers to better integrate smartphones and in-car media systems, the pair said Wednesday.

The car companies are forming the SmartDeviceLink, or SDL, Consortium, following up on an agreement in 2015 to explore putting the in-car application interface pioneered by Ford to work in Toyota vehicles. Mazda Motor, Subaru maker Fuji Heavy Industries, Suzuki Motor and France's PSA Group have joined as well.

The SDL system lets drivers access smartphone apps through in-vehicle displays such as navigation screens and a car's speaker system. This is intended to be safer and more user-friendly than handling the smartphone itself.

Toyota plans to commercialize the technology around 2018. Companies such as Google and Apple are working on similar products. A number of automakers in the SDL Consortium are also part of an alliance with Google, aiming to keep up with industry standards while setting themselves apart with proprietary elements.

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