The upgrades will come on a thumb drive that customers will plug into their car. About 45 minutes later, the touch-screen system that controls the radio, heater, GPS and telephone will have an all-new look, and should work faster.
In their rush to get MyFord Touch and MyLincoln Touch out to customers, it has seemed Ford was more wowed with how the system looked than how it operated. Critics have said the systems are too complicated to use, but Ford says their customer base loves the systems.
Still, the company needs to make changes. Influential outside critics are downgrading Ford's vehicles based on the clunky, complicated designs.
Consumer Reports has slammed Ford for the system based on their own reviews and on consumer complaints. The screen have been confusing to use, Consumer Reports says, requiring people to spend too much time staring at the screen figuring out what to do, rather than looking at the road.
The screens also have a tendency to freeze, making it impossible to control anything in the car, like defrosting windows or turning on the heat.
The thumb drives will be sent early next year to about 250,000 customers, who can perform the updates themselves. Future iterations of MyFord Touch will come with a center knob and two side buttons, making it even more intuitive. But those types of changes can't easily be made to the current system, which is primarily a smooth touch screen, but comes with knobs for volume and fan speed. Customers have told Ford they like knobs for radio volume and tuning, so those will be coming on future models.
Another problem the company won't be able to change on current models: The location of the emergency flashers on the Ford Explorer and Ford Edge. In current models, there is a touch-sensitive button for the emergency flashers is located right under the touch screen. Many people end up resting their hand under the screen to activate the radio or heater, and while doing that end up turning on the emergency flashers. In future models, the button will be changed to a button that must be physically pushed to start the flashers.
Graydon Reitz, Ford's director of electronics engineering, said that despite complaints, the systems are among the top reasons consumers list for buying Ford cars.
But soon after they rolled out MyFord Touch, Ford recognized it needed to make some changes.
"The screens weren't as intuitive as they needed to be," he said.
Jennifer Brace, a user interface design engineer for Ford, said the changes should make the system easier to use. The design is cleaner, and buttons that drivers need to push more often are displayed more prominently.
The system seems to adopt a tenet of basic web design: Putting controls in the same place from page to page, so users don't have to go hunting around each time they change pages to figure out what to do.
And it is faster, which was clear when using the current MyFord Touch next to the new system. There is a lag in the current system, which makes users feel like system didn't feel the driver push the screen, so people often keep hitting the screen out of frustration. The upgrades will make the system move much faster – almost twice as fast -- eliminating the urge to keep hitting the screen.