Ford Wows CES With MyFord Touch Communications System

Posted: January 7, 2010

A car that can tweet.  A car that can play Pandora streaming music stations.  A car that lets you tag songs you hear so that you can download them later. A car that is its own mobile Wi-Fi hotspot.  Sounds like a concept you’d see at an auto show, right? 

Actually, the technologies will first appear in some Ford products late this year.

For the last few years, most auto critics will tell you, Ford’s SYNC system has been the best in-car technology system on the market.  But the rest of the auto industry is threatening to catch up.  Kia’s upcoming UVO system is the first serious threat (it looks remarkably like the first version of SYNC did a few years ago), and more competitors are sure to emerge soon, now that Microsoft has made the technology that drives SYNC available to other automakers.  So Ford has upgraded.

In a presentation at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the automaker has unveiled SYNC’s replacement, called MyFord Touch.  Business Week reports, “Ford Motor Co. plans to bring social networking, Web browsing and iPod-style thumb controls into 80 percent of its models by 2015 as automakers woo consumers with communications features.”  The system will make its first appearance later this year on the 2011 Ford Edge, Lincoln MKX and Ford Focus.  

MyFord Touch will allow drivers to access smartphone applications in their cars with voice commands, or through steering-wheel mounted thumb controls.  CNET reports, “The first three available applications are the Pandora streaming music service, Stitcher news and audio service, and Twitter.” 

The Detroit Free Press explains, “Sync will be compatible with a smart phone application for Twitter called OpenBeak. Sync will be able to read tweets aloud and let drivers tweet without taking their hands off the wheel.”  It will also allow in-car internet use.  “Anyone who plugs an air card into the Sync USB port can turn the car into a mobile, Wi-Fi hotspot. Also, for vehicles with MyFord Touch or MyLincoln Touch, Sync's Web browser will be able to run on the touch screen when the vehicle is in park.”  Drivers will be able to send MapQuest directions to their car, and tag songs for download through a steering-wheel mounted thumb button.

More apps will come quickly.  CNET says, “Ford created application programming interfaces (APIs) that will allow third-party developers to modify smartphone applications to work with Sync. More apps will be available over time, such as ways to coach consumers to drive more efficiently.”  Developers won’t be able to build their own in-car apps (at least, not without some hacking), since “Ford plans to approve which applications will be available.”

The possibilities are exciting.  PCWorld reports, “Ford shared the Sync API with students at the University of Michigan, among other institutions, to see what applications they might come up. One such app is a "breadcrumbing" tool for a convoy of cars following one lead driver who knows the way. As the leader drops virtual breadcrumbs along the route, directions to that point are generated and shared with following cars.” 

Jalopnik has a list of other possibilities, ranging from an app that allows you to order take-out through your touchscreen to a travel expense tracker for those who drive their cars for business.

MyFord Touch may prove a real advantage for Ford in the marketplace.  Business Week notes, “Sync was critical to the purchase of a Ford model for 32 percent of buyers last year,” and was present on 70 percent of Fords sold in 2009.  With the competition catching up, MyFord Touch could be key to Ford’s future.

Autoblog comments, “Before seeing MyFord Touch, we already thought that Ford had the best navigation/entertainment stuff in the industry (SYNC is really, really good – especially with Sirius Travel Link). MyFord Touch brings Ford a generation (or two) beyond the competition. In other words, no one could even compete with Ford's old stuff. How on earth will they manage against MyFord Touch?”

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