Back in June I visited Ford at Dearborn and had good look at their in car technology called MyFord Touch. I was really impressed with the touch screen system and its range of features but I have heard some owners saying it can be a bit complicated to use. Ford seem to be addressing this with an update out early next year that will see a new look with simpler UI and bigger fonts plus there a range of new features including, iPad syncing, improved voice recognition (powered by Nuance), Audible support and better Bluetooth support. Existing systems should be eligible for an upgrade with USB flash drive with the software upgrade being sent out to owners.
Hopefully I should get a look at the new version at CES, full details from the Press Release:
Faster, Simpler, Better: MyFord Touch Upgrade Provides New and Existing Customers Enhancements and New Features
DEARBORN, Mich., Nov. 7, 2011 /PRNewswire/ —
- Ford (NYSE: F) will launch performance upgrades and new features for MyFord Touch® beginning with 2013 models – no-charge upgrade will be available to existing owners
- Simpler graphics, faster touch-screen response and easier-to-use controls are among the many enhancements to the voice-activated in-car connectivity system
Ford customers said MyFord Touch® could be faster and feature simpler graphics that are easier to use and that’s exactly what Ford plans to deliver with a broad set of performance upgrades to the system – launching first on the new 2013 Ford Escape, Flex and Taurus.
Available early next year – and offered at no charge to existing MyFord Touch owners – the software upgrade enhances the ownership experience as it was developed by listening and responding to customer feedback.
“SYNC® has clearly been a game-changing technology and now we’re changing the game again, showing how quickly we can deliver more of what customers really want,” said Graydon Reitz, director, Ford Global Electronics and Electrical Systems Engineering. “Our strategy to create the SYNC software platform and add the customizable screens of MyFord Touch gives us a level of flexibility and speed to respond to customer input like never before seen in the auto industry.”
The new touch-screen interface features simpler graphics and controls that are easier to use. Customers will also experience significantly faster touch-screen response times, one of the top requests from owners.
New features include support for tablet devices and Audible.com audiobooks, improved navigation maps and enhanced voice recognition interaction.
For a video demonstration of the improvements, please visit: http://youtu.be/c3k4iDZyhYE
Listening to customers
Since MyFord launched last fall, Ford has held four customer clinics in which hundreds of owners talked directly to Ford engineers about their experiences with the new technology. Owner feedback was clear and consistent, revealing that MyFord Touch was a key purchase reason.
A survey of 2011 Ford Edge owners shows that four of the top seven purchase reasons were elements of the MyFord Touch system: the touch screen, steering wheel controls, voice recognition and dashboard styling.
While owners reported that they love the system, there were distinct areas where they wanted improvements. Earlier this year, Ford started delivering on their requests, beginning with more instructions and information on how to best utilize the capabilities of the system.
Ford launched two programs modeled after what consumers experience when purchasing a new electronic device. First, the company added a new MyFord Touch owner support website featuring how-to videos at www.syncmyride.com. Second, free “SYNC My Ride” personalized training sessions for new owners are now offered through Ford dealers – scheduled at customers’ convenience.
“The keys to continuous improvement are simple: Listen, learn and respond. That’s how we’re going to keep our customers happy,” said Gary Jablonski, manager, SYNC Platform Development. “Evolving the software with meaningful enhanced features was part of our plan from the very beginning. It’s no different than the experience with our smartphones and laptop computers – except now, it’s your car that gets better.”
Upgrade your ride
All of the new improvements will be offered to existing owners of MyFord Touch-equipped vehicles, including the 2011 and 2012 models of Ford Explorer and Edge and the 2012 Focus. Owners of 2011 and 2012 Lincoln MKX crossovers will also receive the upgrade for their MyLincoln Touch™ systems.
“We’re seizing the opportunity to continuously improve the Ford ownership experience, and revolutionize what it means to own a car,” said Reitz. “Introducing new technology is only one step in our journey to become known as a technology company. Consistently improving it based on what our customers are telling us marks another milestone in that journey.”
Early next year, owners located in the U.S. will be mailed a USB flash drive with the software upgrade for installation that they can do at their own convenience. If they prefer, owners may also visit their local Ford or Lincoln dealer for the software installation. The upgrade mailing will include instructions informing owners how to simply plug the USB flash drive into the MyFord Touch Media Hub’s USB port in order for installation to automatically begin.
The visual enhancements to MyFord Touch are based on simplifying the graphics with larger, bolder fonts, removing low-priority visual content, and designing screens based on a consistent pattern. More than 1,000 screens in total have been updated with the improved look.
“Our goal when designing the upgrade was to simplify the screens and give customers a fast and easy way to get information at any given moment,” said Jennifer Brace, User Interface Design engineer for Ford. “That meant removing buttons, relocating high-use controls closer to the driver’s reach, simplifying tasks and improving font size.”
The new fonts are as much as 40 percent larger on some redesigned screens. The fonts also are wider and bolder to provide easier legibility, particularly among the rapidly increasing number of drivers age 60 and older.
Ford also took the opportunity to update the performance of the system and add new features for customers to help them keep pace with the fast-moving consumer electronics market.
Faster touch-screen response time, for example, was a key request from owners. Initial testing shows that touch and voice response is at least two times faster than the current system.
Also, the software upgrade includes the following enhancements:
- Improved voice recognition experience powered by Nuance
- Quicker voice recognition upon startup and faster command prompt when the voice button is pushed
- Voice commands used in conjunction with navigation are simplified through elimination of the need to provide street direction, e.g., “Main Street” instead of “North Main Street”
- Music requests are simpler by removing the need to include the additional song, album or artist information often found at the end of a name in parenthesis or brackets
- Customers can find their favorite sports team in action via new Sirius Game Finder simply by saying a command such as “Tune to Detroit Lions game”
- Tablet device compatibility
- Music and other media content from most popular tablet computers like the Apple iPad can now be accessed through a simple USB connection
- Audible.com audiobook support
- Listen to Audible.com content using voice commands or the easy-to-use touch-screen controls
- Connected navigation powered by TeleNav features new map data by NAVTEQ
- Updated map views are richer and feature more 3D landmarks
- Views of freeway junctions and signs are enhanced through photorealistic screen images
- Smart routing options are provided based on a database of historical traffic patterns
- Phone compatibility
- Automatic Bluetooth® connection upon vehicle entry has been improved
- Noise and echo cancellation during phone calls has been improved to enhance call quality
- Gracenote® album cover art database
- Inclusion of the latest music metadata available enhancing the music playback experience
- Improved voice recognition for music search allowing drivers to pinpoint artists with hard-to-pronounce names or nicknames
Ian Dixon is a Microsoft MVP (Most Valuable Professional), founder of TheDigitalLifestyle.com tech site and producer of the weekly The Digital Lifestyle Show podcast. Ian has been writing and talking about Windows for over 10 years and has over 20 years in IT as an IT Manager. Ian has thousands of followers on Twitter and Facebook and over 4 million views on his YouTube channel.