“We’re thinking and behaving like a consumer-electronics company,” commented Derrick Kuzak, Ford Group Vice President of Global Product Development, as he introduced the latest vehicle-connectivity platform in conjunction with Ford’s 2011 vehicle line debut.
Kuzak is a no-nonsense engineer not given to hyperbole. His comment reflects both the success of the current Sync, codeveloped with Microsoft, and the potential of the new platform dubbed MyFord Touch to widen what many consider to be Ford’s lead in mobile electronics.
MyFord Touch (also called MyLincoln Touch and MyMercury Touch for Ford's other domestic brands) is a major leap forward in some respects compared with the automaker’s current infotainment package. It features significantly improved functionality and human-machine interface (HMI), with greatly expanded applications.
The new platform will debut in the 2011 Lincoln MKX, followed by the 2012 Focus. Installation rates will reach about 80% of Ford’s global product line by 2015, Kuzak said.
Jim Buczkowski, Ford’s Director of Electrical Systems and Technology, spearheaded the MyFord Touch program. Launching the new system at the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas and the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Buczkowski asserted that cars must seamlessly support the latest personal electronic devices motorists bring into the vehicle.
MyFord Touch leverages Sync’s Microsoft Auto open-source capability. It features built-in Wi-Fi that can be accessed when the vehicle transmission is in Park, essentially creating a mobile "hot spot." Ford encouraged a number of third-party vendors to develop new "apps" for the platform, which is configured to work with virtually any cell phone or portable music player.
Buczkowski calls this benefit “simplexity,” or multimodal integration. He said it is enabled by a new five-way controller that manages the graphical user interface (GUI), touch-user interface (TUI), and voice user interface (VUI). HMIs are on the touch screen (the primary interface), steering wheel, and center stack.
The new apps include music from Pandora Internet radio streamed through the vehicle’s audio system, as well as news from the Stitcher online service. Gracenote is Ford’s partner for developing in-vehicle audio/entertainment technologies.
Ford is also working with Sirius satellite radio on a feature called Instant Replay Record, which will allow users to record and play back up to 45 minutes of programming.
MyFord Touch users will be able to read incoming messages from social networking site Twitter, or listen to them using simplified text-to-speech conversion capability provided by Nuance, a voice-command specialist firm.
The system’s voice command software has real-time adaptive learning and offers control of the entire audio system, navi, mobile phone, and Sync services. To minimize driver distraction, Sync will allow for text-message alerts and narrated text messages.
Access to current weather and navigation information is enabled using real-time traffic data and mapping services from Inrix and TeleNav, respectively. Users also can upload MapQuest routing data directly to their vehicles.
Ford also is in talks with Google about integrating its Internet search services into its vehicles.
Other features include a larger, 8-in LCD touch-screen display, as well as improved voice-recognition technology for entertainment systems, navigation devices, and Ford Sync services.
Buczkowski’s team, including Infotainment Chief Engineer John Schneider, worked with Sony to design the center-stack controls. Drivers can access navi, HVAC, phone, and infotainment functions using the LCD touch screen on the center console or a five-way thumb control on the steering wheel. The various main functions (climate, navi, etc.) will be color-coded and located in different areas of the screen to minimize menu layering and reduce driver distraction.
In some models, the system will include traditional control knobs for some functions.
As long as the vehicle is in Park, occupants will be able to download and view video and photographs on the LCD screen. The system will include a Verizon thin card for web browsing.
A pair of 4.2-in cluster-mounted LCD screens will include a customizable digital speedometer, fuel gauge, and other displays.
“What the mouse did for the PC, we need to do for Ford vehicles. It’s our mission to come up with the ‘mouse,’" Buczkowski said.
He told AEI that half of his development team is composed of traditional electronics engineers, with the other half being E/Es recruited from the consumer electronics industry.