118 Articles
Opinion

Automakers may know drivetrains and in-cabin comforts but fail at infotainment and connectivity

Here's what we appreciate, and the things that need rethinking.

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Current Ford CEO Mark Fields allegedly cracked his Edge's infotainment screen in frustration after yet another MyFord Touch error.

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CEO Mark Fields Won't Comment On Collaboration With Google On Autonomous Cars

Ford announced a partnership with one of the country's leading technology companies Tuesday at CES. It just wasn't the one everybody expected.

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Ford's new Sync 3 infotainment system launches for the 2016 model year. Today, the company announced that the first vehicles to get this tech will be the 2016 Escape and Fiesta.

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When the 2015 Ford Mustang hits dealers, it will be with a new batch of features that will power up Sync's 911 Assist feature, and provide an even greater degree of information to first responders in the event of an accident.

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Ask the average consumer – at least, those who follow the goings-on in the automotive industry – which carmaker they'd most closely associate Microsoft, and the answer you'd most likely get would be Ford. The Blue Oval automaker, after all, was at the forefront of bringing Microsoft technology into cars with its pioneering Sync system, and, though reality didn't turn out as such, Ford's CEO was recently touted as a potential future head of the Redmond-based software giant. But that r

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Opinion

That Mulally was seriously being considered says a great deal about Microsoft and Mulally.

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Ford is doing well. It can't make enough examples of its new Fusion, it can barely make enough of the aging F-150, it's getting good brand rankings, people like its turnaround story, it's selling oodles of product and its quarterly profit numbers end in the word "billion." As other high-flying examples have demonstrated over the past few years, though, big numbers can come with problems that aren't exactly small.

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Ford hasn't had the best luck with its MyFord Touch and Sync systems, as the finicky infotainment system has been subject to a critical whooping while customer issues have helped sink Ford's IQS scores. The automaker has made a concerted effort, though, to try and fix MyFord Touch. And while the results have been mixed, The Blue Oval is hoping its latest free update, set to go live next week, will make things better.

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Ford deserves credit for being a front-runner in offering advanced infotainment technology with its Sync and MyFord Touch systems, but continued consumer complaints over its confusing touchscreen interface and capacitive controls has made the automaker relent. The Wall Street Journal reports that physical buttons and knobs for controlling tuning and volume will be coming back to Ford vehicles equipped with the controversial infotainment system.

Popular music streaming service Spotify will become available on Ford's SYNC Applink system, the automaker announced today at the Mobile World Congress. This will be Spotify's first time fully integrating into an OEM's infotainment system--Volvo announced late last year their intentions with Spotify, but that won't be ready until next year.

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Automakers aren't necessarily known for their sharing skills unless some sort of mutual agreement is in place, but it seems that Ford is looking to create a universal architecture based on its Sync AppLink on which other companies (including rival automakers) can run in-car apps free of charge. With the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show going on, Wired sat down with Ford's Doug VanDagens, director of connected services, who talked about what such a tech-sharing plan could do for Ford and the indust

CES

Ford used the occasion of CES to announce that the Ford Developer Program, the automaker's own app developer program, would be open to anyone wanting to participate. Ford will provide its software developer kit to registered software writers who will then have access to code libraries and documentation to allow them to write apps to "enable two-way communication between mobile apps" and Sync-equipped Ford vehicles "including voice commands from the driver."

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Among the numerous apps that Ford has added to its Sync AppLink system is the location-sharing service Glympse. After The app is installed on a smartphone and the phone is paired with the AppLink interface either through Bluetooth or USB, a driver just presses the Sync button on the steering wheel and says, "Send Glympse." With that, the vehicle's location is sent to the other parties he has enabled in the app.

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Luxury automakers are always trying to find ways to pamper car owners, and now Lincoln is getting into the game by offering its Sync Services complimentary for three years on all 2013 models. Based on Sync, this technology can give automated information such as turn-by-turn directions and traffic updates, as well as news, stock and weather updates. It also has 24-hour live operator assistance for when users want to talk to a real person.

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It's pretty amazing how much in-car technology has advanced in recent years, and Ford's Sync system has been at the forefront of vehicle connectivity and infotainment. Since its debut on the 2008 Ford Focus, Ford says more than five million of its vehicles have been equipped with Microsoft-developed technology.

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Ford showed the world its all-new Mondeo in Amsterdam today, alerting Europeans that a new "flagship" for the Blue Oval brand has arrived. The new Ford, a lookalike of the Fusion model available here in the United States, makes its European debut with flavors of powertrain and body style that will be unique to its target market.

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MyFord Touch is an enigma – not just because the infotainment system itself is difficult to understand and use, but because Ford just can't seem to figure out what to do about it. Ford's marketing chief Jim Farley tells Automotive News that despite ongoing criticism of MyFord Touch, even after a 2013 model year update, it "won't change our commitment to being a leader in infotainment. We want to be the best at it even if it means we have to improve the usability forever."

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Wouldn't it be great if your car alerted you to nearby deals as you drove by them? Austin Gayer and Danny Newman's Roximity app will appeal to you, then. The duo explains it as "a location-based alert system that allows merchants to sign up for geo-aware location deals." In other words, when you're near a place offering a deal, you get an alert on your iPhone, and since Roximity is integrating with Ford Sync, that functionality extends to Ford cars and trucks as well.