SiliconFilter

Ford Updates its MyFord Touch Interface: Easier to Use, Faster and Less Distracting

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Ford today announced a major upgrade to its MyFord Touch user interface that allows drivers to control virtually all aspects of their cars infotainment system with the help of voice commands, a touchscreen and dedicated buttons on the dashboard. The earlier MyFord Touch system, which was available on a number of 2011 and 2012 model year cars, has a reputation for being overly complex and slow. The update the company announced today greatly simplifies the user experience and also offers a major performance boost, resulting in faster screen redraws and a more fluid user interface. Ford also enhanced compatibility with Bluetooth smartphones (which now offers iPad support as well), improved the voice recognition experience and upgraded the turn-by-turn navigation system.

The new system will make its debut on the 2013 Ford Escape, Flex and Taurus. Current owners will be happy to hear that Ford plans to send them a USB stick with the software upgrade by early next year. This upgrade will be free and installing it will be as easy as plugging the USB driver into the car and waiting for the install to finish.

I got a chance to test the new system out during a trip to Ford’s headquarter in Dearborn, MI last week (see disclosure below).

myford_touch_redesign_1

Driven to Distraction: MyFord Touch 1.0

With SYNC, Sync Applink and MyFord Touch, Ford was at the forefront of the auto industry to bring voice recognition, touch screens, apps and connectivity to its cars at a time when most of these features were only available in luxury cars. At the same time, though, while these new systems helped to drive sales, the company’s reputation has suffered somewhat over the last year or so as these advanced systems turned out to be somewhat too complex, distracting and cumbersome for many drivers.

Smarter User Interface

As Ford user interface design engineer Jennifer Brace told me last week, Ford conducted a number of user clinics with current MyFord Touch owners over the course of the last year and tried to address their main concerns with this update.

The new interface does away with most of the clutter that made the old one hard to use. While it keeps the same basic layout with four quadrants of the screen (Entertainment, Climate, Navigation and Phone), every single screen has been redesigned by Ford’s engineers to make using the system more intuitive. The whole system now features simpler graphics, larger fonts and just focuses on providing more glancable information to the driver without unnecessary distractions.

Other design upgrades include more obviously pressable buttons, a move towards a more standard icon set (think magnifying glasses for zooming in and out and a gear icon for changing your settings etc.), and more 3D landmarks in the maps app as well as easier to read street names.

Faster

Besides sprucing up the interface, Ford’s engineers also worked on making the whole experience faster while keeping the same hardware. Indeed, as Ford told me, the 2013 model year cars the updated system will make its debut on will actually feature the exact same hardware as the old models (partly in order to ensure compatibility for current owners). The speed updates – which are quite significant when you see the old and new software side-by-side – are solely based on optimizing the software.

The video blow explains the update and new features in more detail:

Disclosure: Ford provided this author with transportation to its Dearborn, MI headquarters, as well as lodging and meals.



5:01 am


In-Car CD Players: Another Soon-To-Be Obsolete Technology

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I still remember plugging my portable CD player into a cassette adapter so I could listen to my music in the car. Today, in-car cassette players are a thing of the past, but most cars still come with built-in CD players. According to Ford’s global trends and futuring manger Sheryl Connelly, that could soon change, though. While talking to AM Online, Connelly noted that “the in-car CD player – much like pay telephones – is destined to fade away in the face of exciting new technology.”

CDs, of course, have not exactly been big sellers over the last few years, as more and more consumers have shifted to MP3s, so phasing out in-car CD players only makes sense in the long run. Ford’s Connelly believes her company will continue to offer CD players in markets where there is demand, but as her colleague Ralf Brosig also told AM Online, Ford expects to see all-digital in-car entertainment systems in the near future.

Next Wave: Cloud-Connected Cars

Ford has been among the leaders when it comes to bringing digital entertainment options to cars, and has added USB connectivity and SD card ports to its latest MyFord Touch systems.

Some of Ford’s in-car entertainment systems are also connected to the cloud (though drivers have to bring their own connectivity in the form of a smartphone to their Fords) and allow users to play music through Pandora or Stitcher. More of this connectivity will likely come to more cars in the near future and will maybe even one day make USB and AUX ports obsolete, too.

 



4:16 pm


As Car Makers Add More Technology to Their Vehicles, New Problems Appear

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Our cars are quickly becoming sophisticated computers on wheels and new cars often feature technologies like speech recognition, lane departure warnings, adaptive cruise control and blind-zone alerts that would have looked like science fiction not too long ago. Now, however, the latest J.D. Power and Associates Initial Quality Study shows that quite a few of these new technologies end up confusing users and have lead to a massive drop in the quality ratings for some manufactures. The clearest example for this is Ford, which has been instrumental in bringing many of these technologies to the mass market. In the J.D. Power ranking, the company dropped from fifth place in 2010 to 23rd this year, showing that this new technology clearly leaves some buyers unsatisfied.

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9:11 pm