• Jan 7, 2010
Hands on with MyFord Touch and SYNC App Ecosystem – Click above for high-res image gallery

You've read the PR, seen the press shots and probably snickered a little at the quote from Ford's Derrick Kuzak indicating that his company's latest tech "will cause people to fall in love with their vehicles again." After getting a chance to play with a few entrants into the company's so-called SYNC App Ecosystem, and getting behind the wheel of a MyFord Touch-equipped mockup vehicle, we're not laughing – but we are smiling. It's impressive tech, so follow the jump to see some videos and check our impressions.




First up was a walk through of what Ford is calling its App Ecosystem. The company is exposing software libraries that will, in theory, allow any Bluetooth device to communicate with the vehicle. That means Android, iPhone, Windows Mobile, BlackBerry, Palm and whatever else you want are in the game. Applications will be able to write to the SYNC display, have the car read text to speech, receive voice commands and receive some data from the car. Exactly what data remains to be seen, but full ODBII will not be available – at least not initially. Dreams of a boost gauge widget on your Droid remain unfulfilled.

Existing apps can easily add SYNC support, and on display was Pandora, Stitcher and Open Beak (a Twitter client). Pandora quickly connected to the car, displaying the current artist and track and allowing the driver to select new stations simply by speaking. You can even give a thumbs up or a thumbs down just by moving a thumb to press the SYNC button. While in action the phone's screen is disabled, preventing distractions, a definite theme of the Ford team.


The current apps on display were impressive, but of course they're just the tip of the iceberg. That any app can be easily updated to support SYNC is great news, and that you won't need separate copies of those apps for SYNC is even better – eventually you'll get prompted to download a Pandora update and then, hey presto, infinite channels in your car.

That's cool and the potential is, of course, huge, but that wasn't the only impressive thing on display. MyFord's dashboard of the future dominated the other half of the room, with a mockup Edge cockpit showing off a trio of displays, the primary one being an eight-inch, 800x480 touchscreen through which nearly every control in the car can be tweaked, including climate control and navigation, and also some other funky stuff, like media playback and even a web browser.


Yes, a car with an integrated web browser. No, it won't let you use it while you're driving. Connectivity is provided by an external 3G or 4G modem, which must be plugged into one of two USB ports tucked beneath the arm rest. Once connected the car serves as a WiFi hotspot, so folks in the backseat can mack on your data plan while you schlep them around town. There's also an SD card reader in there and RCA inputs in to pump video to that eight-inch display – again, only while it's stopped.

Control is either by touching that main screen or using five-way directional pads on the right and left spokes of the steering wheel, one for each of the two displays on either side of the instrument cluster. As you cycle through menus, the backgrounds of the screens change color, a very helpful cue telling you what you're looking at and something that we think, with practice, will mean you'll be able to tweak most settings without ever taking your eyes off the road. It's worth noting that there are few if any actual buttons in the car, most things handled through the MyDash system or via a set of touch-sensitive "buttons" scattered about. Fans of tactile feedback won't be happy here, but it's actually far more intuitive and easy to use with only a glance than we'd thought.


The apps coming to SYNC open up a world of possibilities, and MyFord Touch is looking fantastic. Even more intriguing is that this is just the beginning; the possibilities are endless. Apps that track car location and speed to predict congestion? Apps that tell if a driver makes a panic move and warns those behind? A messaging system that'll let you apologize to that guy in the blue Camry you just cut off? All this and more – coming soon to a Ford near you.


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  • 74 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      this is neat and all but will ultimately create unnecessary waste and depreciate vehicle value faster and shorten the life of vehicles while also making them more expensive to maintain. kudos to ford for the advancement, but really, automakers should be collaborating to build a single, standardized system where the old computer hardware can be upgraded easily and affordable (think personal computer) when the vehicle is still good but the hardware isn't.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Its UPGRADEABLE!!!!!!!!!! Its SOFTWARE not hardware... duhhhhhh!!!!!!

        vs. GM Onstar is closed and not so upgradeable... and costs more...!
        • 5 Years Ago
        This is what happens when people only look at the pretty pictures, and don't really read the press release.

        As Greg stated, one of the best things about this system, is that it is completely, and easily upgradable. Thus, when new apps come out, and new features, you just upgrade your existing vehicle.

        This way, your 1-2-5 year-old vehicle, is not tech obsolete the moment you buy it, and this feature will actually add to the value of the vehicle, instead of detracting.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @Greg

        Want to buy my 386 computer? It's running Win 3.0, but I'm told it's upgradable.
        ;-)))))))))))))) Damn sticky keysssssssssssss
      • 5 Years Ago
      Will this system allow me to stream porn?
      • 5 Years Ago
      Something else to make the car incredibly complex. Ever have a problem that they can't solve with your computer car. When something fails and it will it will be prohibitively costly to maintain. Not to mention driving great distances to the few remaining dealers as the independent garage wno't be able to fix it.
      The cost of owning a car will go way up and many will be ledt without an affordable car. Your new mini-car will be very expensive for what you get no matter how many electronic doodads it has
      • 5 Years Ago
      You trash this but praise GM for the crap they call onstar. I had a vehicle with onstar ind it was terrible. The phone didn't work, they couldn't unlock my doors and out of the blue, a my vehicles bells and whistles are going off, it basically took over the truck and a lady asks what my emergency is. No thanks. I will take Ford any day over GM crap. I like the new tech and hopefully it works better than onstar.
      xxx
      • 5 Years Ago
      Ford has come up with these high tech ideas in the past, and they have NEVER EVER succeeded in attracting new consumers to their products.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @xxx
        Uh, is this sarcasm? You have heard of Sync, right? If you haven't, it's right tehre in the press release. I'm sure you might be able to google up some background info on it, and the impact it's had on Ford's sales...
      • 5 Years Ago
      Ok, flame on Flex haters, but why not start with the Flex??? Seems like a good match: highly appointed interior with top notch sound deadening, niche market expansion, car class excellent for mobile office/business.

      An outside the "box" car (no pun intended) with next generation car/operator interface. Build it and I will be the first in line - I promise, Ford!
        • 5 Years Ago
        Really Matt, we didn't hear you the first 26 times you said that, and we certiantly couldn't look at the numbers ourselves if we wanted to, cute though. While you're bringing up the same things over and over again, how about that 6.0/6.2L V8 full sized GM product that is faster and gets better mileage than the SHO? Hmm... still waiting for that one.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @Matt
        Maybe people who know you personally feel bad and won't say anything to you... but you're a DUD dude... you have to be a crack-baby to actually enjoy going soooooo far out of your way to hate on Ford for no apparent reason. Now, I understand you might not like it for whatever personal reason you have (in your case: stupidity) and we all hate on certain cars/companies for no-good reasons. However, most of us give credit where it's due... and this time Ford/Microsoft made something cool we can enjoy if we want too.
      JDM Life
      • 5 Years Ago
      When he asked whats playing...I could notunderstand one word that thing said....
        • 5 Years Ago
        @JDM Life
        Really? Odd, I could
        • 5 Years Ago
        @JDM Life
        It's no different than the voice heard on your friendly neighbourhood iPod when you ask what is playing, or any other voice responses that aren't set in stone. It can be a bit off-putting at first, but once you know what to expect it's quite easy to understand.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @JDM Life
        Yea, I think you need to have those ears checked, it was pretty clear.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Ok, flame on Flex haters, but why not start with the Flex??? Seems
      like a good match: highly appointed interior with top notch sound
      deadening, niche market expansion, car class excellent for mobile
      office/business.

      An outside the "box" car (no pun intended) with next generation
      car/operator interface. Build it and I will be the first in line - I
      promise, Ford!
      • 5 Years Ago
      What does Matt know about cars anyway? His daily driver is a school bus. Or should that be daily rider since he just rides in it along with his school mates?
        • 5 Years Ago
        Did you say school bus? I think you meant short bus.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Looks fantastic and as a 49yo male I would love to own an interior like that. But Ford should consider making a traditional interior a no-cost option for those (like my parents) for whom anything more complicated than a DVD player spells anathema.
      • 5 Years Ago
      When I was a kid watching Sci-Fi in the 1980s, this was what future cars were supposed to be like. I wants one.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I'm still skeptical that loading 3rd party apps onto my car makes sense.

      Honestly, I think the better solution instead of building in more flexibility is to standardize the way a PC-like module would connect to your car. Then you just use regular apps on the PC and it sits in your dash. The advantage of this is that if this PC has limitations, they can be solved by replacing it, whereas with just loading apps onto your car, you are stuck with what you began with.

      A great example is in-car NAVs right now. If you have an old one, the system just isn't capable enough to draw a good UI, so no matter whether you can load new apps or not, you're never going to have the google maps look.

      MS is clearly trying to create a new platform and own it. And that's great for them. I'm not sure as customers this type of lock-in benefits us. And before anyone calls me a fanboy, I believe it definitely doesn't benefit us on iPhone (a recent example of the same thing).
        • 5 Years Ago
        I don't think you get the mobile apps platform. 1) It isn't Microsoft doing it, it's Ford. 2) The idea is to be able to build apps for mobile phones that can interact directly with the car. They're not trying to make a new app store to lock people in with. The idea is that devs can add some hooks to their current software that will enable communication with SYNC and send interface information so that you can control the app from the car. That way devs don't need to recreate their apps for ANOTHER platform, and they can continue to distribute their apps through the same channels. It's just like downloading a software update for the apps currently on your phone to add SYNC functionality. There's no lock-in. But I'm locked into Ford based on that they're leading the industry on this kind of stuff.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I completely agree. Give me a docking station where I can fit my own equipment, when it needs an upgrade I can just upgrade everything including the screen.

        What strikes me is that they have the horrible non-tactile controls on the center console and then they make you either try to speak things or go through horrible levels and levels of menus on the tiny screen by the instrument cluster. Jesus how long does it take you to find things on there and they expect you to do this while driving.

        I think these car companies just don't know and don't want to do proper hardware, my next car is going to be as tech-free as I can get it and I'll put my own parts in.
        • 5 Years Ago
        The way I understand it is the MS system only "links" to a appliance -- in this case, a smartphone -- so you're not loading apps onto the car.
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