Every car today seems to have a wildly innovative interface for interacting with the vehicle, setting up your Bluetooth phone and with any luck, keeping your eyes on the road and yours hands on the wheel. Ford is changing the way drivers interact with their cars thanks to the company's new MyFord Touch system. Debuting on the updated 2011 Ford Edge Limited and Sport, MyFord Touch is a new system of technologies including voice control, touch screen and graphics all powered by Sync. The typical test drive of the Edge only briefly mentions the MyFord Touch, so we thought we'd do a deeper dive here. MyFord Touch is used for controlling entertainment options like a plugged-in iPod, HD and satellite radio as well as the vehicle's climate controls, navigation, and paired cell phones. By combining current and emerging technologies, Ford has made the operation of complex in-car features simpler and safer.

Ford says the look and operation of many of the Edge's new tech features were modeled after home electronics. Many satellite TV remotes use a cluster of five buttons with arrows pointing left, right, up and down with an "enter" or "OK" button in the middle. To mimic that intuitive operation, the MyFord system uses two five-way controllers mounted on the steering wheel. They allow the driver to choose what information they want to see on two small LCD screens placed on opposite sides of the analog speedometer. Because the buttons are placed right where the driver's thumbs are likely to be, the controls are super intuitive and easy to operate; that means many functions can be performed without the driver taking their hands off the wheel.

In order to simplify voice commands, the MyFord system now understands more conversational words and a wider variety of commands than the original Sync. For example, to change the temperature inside the car you can say "Temperature up" or "make it warmer" or "67 degrees." This more conversational voice system also works with your phone and iPod plus you no longer have to run through a string of commands like "audio > USB > play artist Run-DMC," Now it's just "Play artist Run-DMC" and the song starts.

The same goes for the navigation system; a user can simply say something like "555 South Street, Lakeland Florida" to be routed to that address. Those who listen to sports via Sirius satellite radio can use Game Finder to find a specific game. Just say "Tune to Dallas Cowboys game" or "Show NFL games." You can say a Sirius station name or number too; this is probably the most useful features since many people know the name of their favorite Sirius station but maybe not the number.

For a subscription of about $60 per year, Ford owners can also get Sync Apps and Services. This allows access to traffic, turn by turn directions, sports, news and weather via Sync when paired with a mobile phone.

While turn by turn navigation is part of the Sync Services feature, map based navigation is another, separate option. Even without the map-based navigation all MyFord equipped vehicles come with a color, LCD touch-screen. That screen can be used to do everything you can do by voice; whenever there's a voice command, it's always backed up by a standalone button or touch screen option. Plus, you can make your own shortcuts for frequently used features just like a PC desktop.

Other notable features include a media hub with two USB ports, SD card slot and RCA audio and video inputs. Plug a USB modem in and you can turn the Edge into a rolling WiFi hot spot. MyFord Touch also offers the ability to display corresponding photos for phonebook contacts, album art for music stored on your portable player and customizable ambient lighting for the cabin.

As innovative as the Ford's new driver interface is, the 2011 Edge earns extra cool-tech points for other available features like a Sony sound system. The 390-watt Sony audio system is optional sound quality is exceptional thanks to 12-speakers, a class D digital amp, and Dolby Pro-Logic II. Opt for this upgraded audio system and you also get a unique gloss black head unit that looks like Sony home audio components including touch-sensitive controls for all audio and climate system functions.

High tech safety features include adaptive cruise control, collision warning with brake support and a blind spot information system (BLIS) that tells you when a vehicle is in your blind spot. Adaptive cruise control automatically keeps a set distance between you and the car ahead when the cruise control is engaged. The collision warning system will first sound an alarm if traffic ahead slows and then flash a warning light if the driver doesn't respond quickly enough. It can even partially apply the brakes to help avoid a crash. Finally, there's the MyKey system that lets you limit certain vehicle parameters like radio volume and vehicle top speed – perfect for a family with a teen driver.

Many luxury brands get a lot of attention from early tech adopters but many times, the added features simply add complexity. Sure, some high-end vehicles allow you to custom tune the EQ on every audio source or adjust every vehicle feature from one central controller but the operation is typically tedious and the menus are too deep. The MyFord Touch system is different. This is technology that works, it doesn't get in the way, it's not frustrating and it actually helps the driver accomplish most tasks in a simpler, safer way.


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