13 Jan
Ford takes dashboard technology to the next NEXT level


A couple weeks ago Ford flew us out to Detroit to check out their new MyFord Touch technology, which is essentially the next evolution of their very popular SYNC on-dash entertainment/navigation/information system. What was odd wasn’t that it was preceded with substantial pomp and ceremony (in the auto world the debut of a new windshield wiper often calls for fireworks and an opening jingle from Taylor Swift), but that it actually deserved its own event. Who would’ve thought?

As SYNC is already considered one of, if not the leading human/machine interfaces (HMI) —and has sold nearly 1,000,000 units of the system — it is noteworthy that Ford put so much emphasis on the next evolution of MyFord Touch (MyLincoln Touch on Lincolns, naturally — but is there a MyMercury Touch coming anytime soon? Don’t hold your breath). And then again, maybe it’s not.  Maybe that’s exactly why while other US car companies are flailing around in near bankruptcy, Ford has been killing it lately. They just swept North American Car and Truck of the Year honors for their Fusion Hybrid and Ford Transit Connect truck (only the third time a single manufacturer has swept the awards), they posted their highest sales of the year in December (up 33% from last year, and highest since May 2008), and they have a slew of new vehicles (Fiesta and Focus especially) coming in on the horizon. It’s reassuring to see an American brand actually challenging themselves instead of resting on their long-fading laurels.

Hit the Jump to read the details on Ford’s next level MyFord system…


The basic makeup of the MyFord Touch is one large 8” touchscreen display in the center stack, augmented by two 4.2” LCD screens on your front dash (on either side of the analog speedometer). On the steering wheel are two five-way button controls to allow you to run the whole thing without ever taking your hands off the wheel. Although the buttons are great, and the touchscreen functionality huge (even premier brands like Audi and Benz lack touchscreen capability), it’s Ford’s VUI (voice user interface) that takes things to the next level. Its new VUI is far superior to its present SYNC incarnation, recognizing more than 10,000 first-level commands, as opposed to first generation SYNC’s 100. And the syntax has been streamlined as well, so it’s much more “conversational” —meaning you can just use keywords or songs or artists and the system will play find the track and play it. Or use shortcut commands like “directions to home” and the car will take you there with turn-by-turn instructions with voice prompts, or even text messaging the directions to your mobile phone (this is occurring now in the new version of SYNC in cars without screens). It will also warn of upcoming traffic congestion and suggest alternate routes.


And it will also (allegedly) learn your voice after only 3 instructions. Gone are the days of hair-pulling mechanized customer-service like commands: “Play iPod. No, not radio play iPod. Play Arcade Fire. No, play Arcade Fire. No, play Arcade Fire…” You get the drift.

With its VUI, you can also tag songs on the fly — perhaps to be remembered later, or even purchased off iTunes. For another big evolution of the MyFord Touch system is that you will be able to convert your entire car into a truly mobile WiFi hotspot via a connectable broadband modem. You pop one in, and everyone in your car will be able to surf the web…how quickly, of course, is another question entirely. While in park the driver can also access the built-in web browser for full internet access.

MyFord Touch

Another nice touch is that the SD card slot (and 2 USB ports) will let you bring all your settings with you in whichever car you’re driving — which will be quite handy in a couple years when renting a Ford Fusion, and all you’ll need to do to completely personalize the vehicle to your preferred specs is insert a SD card: dashboard controls, colored ambient lighting, your favorite stations — it’ll even set your seat and mirrors how you like them.

The small screen to the left of your speedometer handles all the driving functions (radar cruise control distance, fuel efficiency, oil pressure, temperature, etc) and is controlled by the buttons on the left-hand of the steering wheel. The right buttons handle the right screen, which is an auxiliary screen for the main 8” screen on the dashboard. This main dash is where the magic happens; all the non-driving functions are broken down into four groupings, each color-coded: Phone (brown), Navigation (green), Entertainment (purple) and Climate (blue). As nearly everything is customizable (including colored lights in the cupholders), you can swap or alter these colors. And each function has a designated corner of the main screen, accessible at any time for easy jumping around from radio to map to air conditioning.

How far are they willing to go? Well they even boast in-car support for both Pandora and Twitter, meaning you can rock out to the XX station while reading Tweets from your global minions arguing about the new Vampire Weekend album. Hip enough for you?

The MyLincoln Touch differs mostly in its color scheme, although it does have a really cool light bar function in the dash that separates it from its MyFord counterpart. Yes it’s only aesthetic, but as you run your fingers across the touch control a light follows your fingertips. Snazzy.

MyFord Touch will debut in the 2011 Ford Edge and the MyLincoln Touch will debut in the 2011 MKX, and will hit the mainstream in the 2012 Ford Focus. Now we only got to poke around a bit on the system and couldn’t really dig around too deep, so all of the above cannot be fully confirmed. But for now we’ll have to take Ford’s word for it. By all accounts, however, this MyFord Touch should keep Ford in the driver’s seat for the next couple of years at least…


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