Ford, Spotify bring on-demand streaming music to cars

BARCELONA—On-demand streaming music is coming to a Ford near you, thanks to a partnership between the U.S. automaker and Spotify. On Monday, Ford said that Spotify will soon be available for Ford SYNC AppLink-equipped vehicles; the service will integrate with the cars’ voice-activated controls.

Although Spotify offers both free and paid services, Spotify for Ford SYNC AppLink will only be available for paid subscribers—a move that makes sense since only paid subscribers can use Spotify’s mobile app, which will be required for AppLink to work. Spotify Premium costs $10 a month in the U.S. Premium users will be able to access Spotify’s catalog of more than 20 million songs while driving. And they won’t need to take their hands off the wheel to let the music play, as Ford’s SYNC voice commands will control several of Spotify’s features.

Using SYNC voice commands, users will be able to hear the title of the currently playing track, star and unstar tracks, add tracks to a “Roadtrip Playlist,” choose a playlist to play, and perform basic audio controls such as fast-forward, rewind, play/pause, and so forth. Users can also ask the car to offer up “similar music” or other albums by the currently playing artist; you can also play recently played artists, albums, and playlists via voice commands.

Ford has also integrated Spotify’s built-in social sharing capabilities, so users can stay connected on the road. You can’t share tracks from your car, but you can accept shared items—such as tracks, albums, artists, or playlists—from friends. If your friend shares an item with you while you’re using Spotify with AppLink, your car will read the shared item aloud. For example, the car will say “You have been sent a new playlist. Would you like to play it?” Answer yes, and the car will start playing that shared item. While this feature probably won’t get much use on a regular commute, it could be a neat way for your friends and family to keep in touch with you when you’re on a roadtrip.

Ford currently has more than one million AppLink-enabled vehicles on the road in North America, and Spotify has more than 20 million active users worldwide (about 5 million of which are paying subscribers). This collaboration is a little different from other streaming music apps that are currently compatible with AppLink: Unlike smart streaming radio apps such as Pandora, Aha Radio, and Slacker, Spotify offers a fully customizable, on-demand experience.

“Spotify is a terrific addition to the SYNC AppLink ecosystem helping add even more value to the experience of driving a Ford for both new and existing customers,” Ford CTO Paul Mascarenas said in a statement announcing the Ford-Spotify deal.

This is Spotify’s first direct collaboration with an automaker, and the company has confirmed that it will be the first music service provider for the upcoming European launch of Ford SYNC AppLink.

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