Apple Carplay and Android Auto are coming to all 2017 Ford vehicles equipped with the company's Sync 3 infotainment system. The announcement has cast a shadow over Sync, which was billed as an inhouse alternative to the systems offered by Apple and Google.
Sync can already handle most smartphone features through a touchscreen, steering wheel-mounted buttons and voice commands, letting drivers make calls, hear received text messages, ask for directions and more. But Carplay and Android Auto take this a step further, giving drivers an interface similar to their phone on the car's dashboard display.
Some 2017 model year vehicles will go on sale in 2016, while Ford says 2016 vehicles on sale now will receive an update giving them Carplay and Android Auto later this year.
Carplay and Android Auto are already available in cars sold by Audi, Jaguar, Land Rover, Kia, Seat, Ferrari, Mercedes, Volkswagen and others. However, not all manufacturers offer both systems together; for example, Ferrari has only Carplay and its own system. Ford will likely want customers to see Carplay and Android Auto as secondary to its own Sync system.
On the eve of CES
The news comes just weeks after Ford said Sync would now work with Siri, allowing voice commands to be given through Apple's personal assistant. It also comes on the eve of the CES technology show in Las Vegas, where Ford is expected to make some major announcements regarding electric and autonomous car development, including a rumoured partnership with Google.
Don Butler, Ford's executive director of the Connected Vehicle and Services division, said: "Sync allows customers to bring the smartphone technology they're comfortable with into a vehicle and use it hassle free. With Sync, we move at our customers' pace - making it easy for them to maintain a connected lifestyle no matter their choice of smartphone, apps or services inside and outside their vehicle."
Although Android Auto will require a moment to set up manually, Carplay on Sync 3 will automatically start when the driver connects their iPhone to the car's USB port. Unfortunately, Carplay does not yet work over Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, so you had better keep that spare Lightning cable in the glove box.
Additionally, Ford says it has plans to add in-car 4G connections with Sync Connect later in 2016. This will let drivers access vehicle functions like remote start, unlock doors, set the climate control and check fuel or battery charge levels from their phone and while away from the car.