By on May 6, 2011


Editor’s Note: Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Byron Hurd of SpeedSportLife, in his TTAC debut.

There has been an almost-palpable sensation of glee propagating through the various import-leaning car communities I frequent. For nearly two years, they’ve had to sit back and listen to the other guys relentlessly gushing about domestic brand turnarounds. With only a few notable speed bumps, it has been a pretty good run so far for post-bailout Detroit. Market share is up; buyers are coming back; product is improving–a sad state of affairs for the import fanboy. Then, out of nowhere, those cunning deviants over at Motor Trend—known of course for setting the magazine landscape ablaze with their out-of-left-field criticisms and take-no-prisoners, “gotcha”-style journalism—dropped a Molotov cocktail into this Texas-desert-dry landscape of domestic love.

The 2011 Explorer, they said, quite simply sucks.
“Now hold on,” you might protest, “they didn’t say that.” And maybe they didn’t in so many words, but as Jonny’s follow-up makes clear, it’s pretty much how they felt about the example they tested. And really, does it matter what anybody said? The finishing order of a comparison test is much like that of a race (or if you’re an Orioles fan like me, the AL East standings). First place is the winner, second place is the first loser, and last place is reserved for cars purchased only by the uneducated, unworthy co-workers whom you spend so much time slandering in the company of your Audi-driving Internet friends. I can only speculate as to the exact details (I don’t drive an Audi) but I’d assume the conversations largely revolve around themes such as poverty, racial discrimination, and—like any discussion about anything on the Internet, ever—pornography.

But I digress. While much to-do was made about their Explorer’s pre-production status, there was another recurring theme that I’d rather talk about, one that has been in the news a bit lately in flammable proximity to phrases like “technical service bulletin” and “frustrated owners.” I’m referring of course to MyFord Touch, Ford’s latest and flashiest SYNC-cessory.

Yes, accessory. For all the press Ford has been getting, positive or negative, there’s a serious absence of understanding as to what MyFord Touch actually is, and for that matter, what it does. MyFord Touch is essentially an extension of MyFord, the interior settings customization option that Ford has been offering for several model years in some variation or another. MyFord lets you select ambient lighting colors and brightness, display functions and colors, and other nifty settings that have little or nothing to do with anything related to the functionality of the car.

MyFord Touch extends that customization to the gauge cluster and infotainment system and offers you a pretty LCD touch-screen (hence the “Touch”) interface from which to control, well, almost everything. But wait, there’s more. Depending on the car and the trim, the Touch option also replaces many center stack controls with either raised, touch-sensitive faux-buttons or a glossy, piano-black touch panel on which more frequently-needed controls such as audio adjustments, HVAC settings and their various on/off switches are duplicated.

Remember too that all of these functions can be controlled by voice through the SYNC interface—triple redundancy. And that sums it up pretty well. By the time you’ve optioned your Ford up to the point where Touch even enters into the equation, you have probably already purchased at least two alternative control interfaces. That’s because MyFord Touch is not SYNC. It’s just a pretty interface that adds another layer of visual panache and techno-gee-whizardry to an already robust infotainment package. You don’t need MyFord Touch if you don’t want MyFord Touch.

And why would you? Well, for one thing, it’s cool. It’s the automotive entertainment equivalent of the iPad—pointless, redundant and expensive. You may know this concept by its more common colloquialism: luxury. That’s what MyFord Touch is, a luxury. It’s a premium option designed for buyers who need to be seen with an expensive gadget, and like any expensive gadget, it will have its share of growing pains. Just learning how to touch the screen properly takes practice (The trick? Just fat-finger it. Hovering delicately over the option you want, waiting for the road surface and suspension to fall into perfect harmony before jabbing daintily at the ¼”-thick bar representing your favorite Lady Gaga single is an exercise in anal-retentive futility. Aim in the general direction of what you want and mash that sucker with ham-fisted authority. You’re welcome.)

That’s not to say that MyFord Touch itself is faultless. Learning the proper technique for prodding at the interface is just the start. Even with several weeks’ worth Touch-equipped press cars under my belt, I still have to stop and think about what it is I’m trying to do. Sometimes, the interface is so unintuitive that I jab at the SYNC button with frustration and curtly inform the synthetic slave girl behind the dash what exactly it is I want “her” to do.

There are plenty of “hey, neat” moments too. The touch-screen provides a handy interface for managing Bluetooth devices, allowing you to connect multiple gadgets simultaneously, assigning each a priority and function. Want to stream music from your iPod touch but make calls from your Blackberry? Stream music from your Droid but use your passenger’s iPhone for phone calls? No sweat. It’s all right there in the phone settings menu. Tech geeks can tweak to their hearts’ content.

Well-executed too are the customizable LCD displays flaking the speedometer (Certain models get only one, mounted dead-center. Focus buyers, I’m looking at you). They share the duties of the typical center-mounted multifunction display that has recently become somewhat of a staple. The left-side screen focuses on vehicle systems (tachometer, fuel economy display, trip info, vehicle health, etc.) and the right is a further extension of the infotainment system, allowing the driver to choose quickly from different audio/video sources or adjust those already selected using wheel-mounted buttons—yes, another layer of control.

The truth is, the story of MyFord Touch is much like that of any other fancy gadget. Early adopters get the worst of it, dealing with patches and updates and pesky issues that never seem to go away. Such is the way of modern software, unfortunately. To most of us, it’ll never matter. Nobody’s forcing it on us, and we’re content to choose something else. To fanboys, it’ll be a reminder of why they’re so certain that Ford can’t build a good car.

Hey, everybody needs something to hang on to.

Byron Hurd’s “Lord Byron” column can be found here at SpeedSportLife

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49 Comments on “The Truth About MyFord Touch...”


  • avatar

    OCD tendency people like me hate the fingerprints on the panel

  • avatar
    TEXN3

    Byron, glad to see you here on tee-tack.

    I’ve had 2 Edges for rentals now, definitely a few of the “hey, cool” moments. After that, it’s really a breeze to use and becomes second nature just like a regular radio and climate control (electronic, not 3 knob style). Granted, I had half of west Texas to figure it all out, but before I hit Plainview (south of Amarillo) I had it down. It’s slick and cohesive, which quite honestly is something that has been missing for quite some time. I’m sure it’s expensive if the system malfunctions and not upgradeable…but most buyers of upper-end Ford models will not upgrade their stereo anyways.

    Quite honestly, the best feature is the two screens which flank the speedometer. You don’t have to study the main LCD very often to change the radio or climate. Having sat radio does help in a new area, as you’re not tuning around for whatever on terrestial radio.

    Oh yeah, I never tried syncing my iphone up because I didn’t want to set up an “account” on a rental and then forget to delete it. I’ve heard of issues with syncing iphones but I’m sure they’ll get that sorted. My folks traded their E430 4matic in for a new Explorer Limited AWD, maybe I’ll try to get a more detailed synopsis next time I visit them. They also have an 07 Explorer XLT 4×4 V8 for their towing duties, but live high up above the Wasatch front and didn’t want an GL-class or Lexus GX. Can’t blame them, but what do I know…I drive Subarus.

    • 0 avatar
      mikedt

      “I’m sure it’s expensive if the system malfunctions and not upgradeable”

      And this is my aversion to having all my car functions (radio, hvac, etc) routed through such a system. I don’t lease and tend to keep my cars for a long time. So when it dies, I’m not going to be able to live without it and it’s going to cost me a fortune to fix it.

      Unfortunately even cars that don’t have a system at the level of a MFT, are doing things like putting the radio display in one part of the dash and the “mechanics” of the radio in another part. A lot of cars get eliminated from my selection pool for such things. I know I’m fighting a trend, but I’m going to do so as long as possible.

      • 0 avatar
        Silvy_nonsense

        I feel sorry for enthusiasts 50 years from now trying to do a full restoration an any luxury car or “normal” car with fancy features. There are a ridiculous number of computers, circuit boards, servos, motors and sensors that run things like automatic climate control, seats with memory, airbags, etc. I wish future restorers lots of luck trying to sort out automatic seat belt pre-tensioners, integrated rear-seat DVD systems, auto dipping xenon headlights, and SYNC or any similar competing system.

    • 0 avatar
      faygo

      “Oh yeah, I never tried syncing my iphone up because I didn’t want to set up an “account” on a rental and then forget to delete it.”

      not sure what “account” you are worried about setting up. it prompts you as to whether to download the phone book (likely one wouldn’t do this on a rental) and that’s about it. your phone (however it was named) would show up in the list of previously paired phones when you left the car, but who cares ? AFAIK, BT devices have unique identifiers, so there isn’t anything else to be hooked up to or whatever.

      Sync in it’s many variations seems to work quite well with my iPhone, tho I have noticed that some simpler systems seem to connect even quicker. I’m a huge fan of BT audio streaming as I tend to listen to a lot of podcasts/downloads on my phone.

      • 0 avatar
        Silvy_nonsense

        “your phone (however it was named) would show up in the list of previously paired phones when you left the car, but who cares”

        What “shows up” on an interface screen and what is actually stored in memory are two different things. You assume that nothing noteworthy is being stored, but based on what is publicly available from Ford, there is no way for us to know this for sure.

        Considering what’s recently been in the press concerning Apple and Google location tracking in their handheld devices and Sony’s total indifference to basic computer security practices in its Playstation Live servers, I think its probably wise to exercise as much caution as possible when connecting a data rich device like an iPhone to any computer you don’t own.

        I don’t think consumer electronics companies are out to get us, but they haven’t exactly shown a huge concern for managing and protecting private customer information. They give privacy protection lip service, but ultimately they only protect our privacy as much as media coverage requires. That’s not the same as actually caring about doing what’s in our best interest.

        There’s no telling what a creative, criminally minded jerk working at a rental car agency could do with the customer data stored in infotainment systems. SYNC is probably fine, but who’s to say some rental car employee and/or computer hacker isn’t working right now on trojan software that he can surreptitiously load to SYNC systems? When working with a public computer system (PC in an Internet cafe, SYNC system in a rental car, etc.) your best bet is to be skeptical. If someone is going to try to rob you, don’t offer to go to the store, buy bullets and load their gun.

      • 0 avatar
        toxicroach

        silly— I sense a business opportunity. I bet the first guy who build a little iphone sized emulator that you could just wire in and emulate the software of the car would be a pretty well off guy. Just drop down menu, pick made/model/year, it pops up a wiring diagram, you plug it in and it all just runs.

    • 0 avatar
      HoldenSSVSE

      …Quite honestly, the best feature is the two screens which flank the speedometer. You don’t have to study the main LCD very often to change the radio or climate. Having sat radio does help in a new area, as you’re not tuning around for whatever on terrestial radio…

      Agreed. I’ve had a Ford Edge rental car for a week. My only gritch is the system had a Hell of a time syncing up my MP3 player. It took it a week, and I was finally able to use the fabulous Sync voice commands to control it on my drive back to the airport. The customizable views of the two dash mounted screens is a feature a lot of other manufacturers could learn from.

      I have concerns that the overall volume of information, and degree of customization would be overwhelming for a more average driver/owner. I think the current system goes to the ragged edge of what can be done via interface – I prefer my female slave girl trapped in the dash – but in the example where voice commands weren’t ready for my MP3 player, I had to use the interface to navigate an 8,000 song library, less than optimal is a far too kind description.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    Welcome to TTAC. Thanks for a genuinely informative read! This read less like a cryptic Ford press release (or a dealer’s spiel) and more like someone simply explaining the accessory in clear and unadorned terms.

  • avatar
    Chiburb

    “Learning the proper technique for prodding at the interface is just the start. Even with several weeks’ worth Touch-equipped press cars under my belt, I still have to stop and think about what it is I’m trying to do. Sometimes, the interface is so unintuitive that I jab at the SYNC button with frustration and curtly inform the synthetic slave girl behind the dash what exactly it is I want “her” to do.”

    Hmm. Unlike the iPad which is the defintion of “intuitive”.

    • 0 avatar
      Byron Hurd

      The iPod interface is intuitive, but what works for a hand-held device and what works for a car are often worlds apart. The iPod interface is built around the idea of being something to which you devote your full attention, albeit briefly, in the pursuit of finding something. I think what makes MyFord Touch feel occasionally unintuitive is that its mission is different, yet we look at it in the context of our hand-helds.

      With in-car entertainment, the challenge is in creating an interface to which you can devote the least attention possible and still accomplish your goal quickly and intuitively. Sometimes those two goals don’t work hand-in-hand.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    Welcome Byron, and nice review. I haven’t used Sync or My Touch, but have been curious about them and this answers a lot of questions. I do think you’re glossing over one SYNC’s major flaws, namely its tendency to reboot fairly frequently, sometimes while the car is in motion. While not dangerous, this has to be annoying as hell. And it’s not an early-production bug, it seems to be a feature designed into the system.

    At the risk of starting an OS flame war, I blame Ford for going to Microsoft for SYNC. Anyone who runs servers for a living knows that if you want stability and reliability, you don’t go with Microsoft. To use a car analogy, they’re the 1970′s General Motors: the 800 pound gorilla that dominates the industry with products that feature mediocre design and engineering.

    • 0 avatar
      Byron Hurd

      I’ve yet to have one of the SYNC systems reboot on me, so I don’t have the requisite experience to comment either way. I *have* however had both SYNC and Chrysler’s uConnect force my phone into a reboot cycle, but given that this happens across multiple brands, I blame the phone.

      My phone is also a piece of ****, but that’s another story entirely.

      • 0 avatar
        Russycle

        According to Autoblog, Sync reboots itself daily. It’s supposed to do so when the ignition is off, but apparently user interaction can trigger it:
        http://www.autoblog.com/2011/03/30/fords-second-gen-sync-system-off-to-a-buggy-start/

        I own an Android, and I can’t say I’m in love with my phone either.

    • 0 avatar
      Silvy_nonsense

      “I blame Ford for going to Microsoft for SYNC.”

      Microsoft supplied operating system only. All the interfaces, applications, voice control and integration with other car systems that define SYNC were created by Ford or third party developers working under contract to Ford.

      FIAT and Kia also use the MS operating system to power their infotainment systems. FIAT and Kia owners are not having the total shut down problems reported by Ford SYNC generation 2 owners. All the patches and upgrades that Ford keeps uploading to customer’s cars in an attempt to fix the problems are not coming from Microsoft, they are coming from Ford.

      While I can understand the desire to jump to conclusions based on historical perception of MS’s other products, the facts that early, less fancy SYNC systems and MS powered systems in cars from other manufacturers are running just fine suggests that the problems were created by and must be solved by Ford.

      • 0 avatar
        Russycle

        Silvy_n, good points. If you read the article I link to above, Ford is blaming Microsoft. But that’s hardly unexpected, so it is hard to know who’s really at fault.

      • 0 avatar
        Silvy_nonsense

        Ford is not blaming Microsoft. A careful reading of the article shows that some unnamed random employee on the phone at one particular Ford dealer blamed Microsoft. I seriously doubt a random dealer employee has any idea what he is talking about when it comes to the complexities of the system and what specifically is causing the problems.

    • 0 avatar
      NulloModo

      The MyFord Touch system should not spontaneously reboot while driving – that was a bug in certain early versions of the system. 

      The system is programmed to reboot every so often in order to remain responsive and snappy, but this doesn’t need to be done very often and is programmed to happen after the ignition is turned off. In some rare cases where the driver turns off the car then immediately restarts it, they may catch the system in a restart cycle, but it shouldn’t happen out of the blue while driving. 

      If you are experiencing spontaneous reboots, you can bring your vehicle in for a free update to the latest version of the software to fix the problem. 

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        “The system is programmed to reboot every so often in order to remain responsive and snappy”

        That’s part of the problem right there. My devices–home stereo, car stereo, DVD player, microwave, calculator, etc–are all “responsive and snappy” without ever needed a “reboot.” Why is that? Their software is hardwired and fixed; their data cannot be corrupted.

        I wish device makers would learn this lesson: It is an appliance that performs a task, much like a vending machine. When I give it a command, it is to perform that task. The code is to be robust so that it handles bad input (external and internal). There is no need for it to do anything else. Once the code works, it should never change.

        For all their benefit, computers (especially Windows) have brought this plague on us–for some reason we think it’s okay for background instructions of a system to change. Windows gets corrupted because the operating system actually changes itself; the registry and resource files get rewritten. I used to have a DVR from a satellite company. One day they ‘upgraded’ the software on the machine; it never worked right afterward. When a device has the capacity to be ‘upgraded,’ it also has the capacity to be corrupted, and the latter is seen more often than the former.

  • avatar
    Philosophil

    I have absolutely no interest in all this crap. Thanks, but I’ll pass.

    Great article, though. A little over-stylized perhaps, but clear and well-written. Welcome aboard.

  • avatar

    Enough with the piano black already!

    No one makes you call it that.

    • 0 avatar
      uncleAl

      Agreed! Piano Black – a marketer’s spin on shiny plastic.

      • 0 avatar
        JuniorMint

        “Piano black” is a perfectly valid phrase to describe something that is black and shiny like a piano.

        If you guys are objecting to “phrases used with dismaying frequency in articles about cars,” you could probably get an entire website out of it.

        What a bizarre objection.

  • avatar
    Sinistermisterman

    “Aim in the general direction of what you want and mash that sucker with ham-fisted authority.”
    Sounds exactly like my kind of technology. I can do delicate texting on an crackberry, but when I’m eating as burrito, slurping down a cola, picking my nose – oh, and driving – the last thing I want is for my infotainment system to be complicated and delicate.

  • avatar

    Also, leave the Apple whiner at home.

  • avatar
    ExPatBrit

    While I am a big gadget fan, I am not of fan of this stuff in cars.I generally buy used and if a car has this kind of stuff I don’t even look at it.

    Drive a car with a ten year old Nav system, almost useless and if it is upgradeable it’s $$$ and about as good as a $25 discontinued GPS in the clearance box.

    I have a newer Kenwood head unit in my Ranger that I can plug in my Ipod Touch. Apple just updated the software and it doesn’t work anymore. Luckily my Android Phone with Music still connects but eventually I presume some essential enhancement will disable some other useful feature.
    Who has the time for all this crap and who is going to be able to fix it?

  • avatar
    bunkie

    “It’s the automotive entertainment equivalent of the iPad—pointless, redundant and expensive.”

    Funny, the whole layering of redundant interfaces strikes me as more of Microsoft approach to things. I’ve been a MS developer for decades and I’ve suffered through endless variations of these “improvements”. And, based upon your comment, I’m guessing you don’t own an iPad. It’s hardly redundant. My phone has gone back to being a phone, I can watch movies late at night in bed without bothering my wife, I can log onto my corporate portal in places where I never could before, I can record my band and overdub tracks, It makes a great moving-map, traffic-enabled nav system, I can read the New York Times and books, etc. I would sorely miss my iPad if it was gone. Oh, yeah, there is one limitation. The TTAC website with its swarm of under-loading ads doesn’t run well on it. But that’s not the iPad’s fault as, in my opinion, this website is a technical disaster.

    • 0 avatar
      crush157

      +1 on the TTAC website underlying ad/tech implementation. It seems you can only read this on your hi-speed bandwidth connection and desktop browser. I use an android tablet and phone most of the time and it is painful to nav through this site with them.

      As for Ford SYNC, the base SYNC is one of the best interfaces I have used. I agree the MyTouch is just another whizbang feature on top of it and is redundant. I had the chance to use the base SYNC in a rental fusion in March for a week and had my phone paired for calls and straaming BT Audio in less than a minute. My over engineered Merc’s can’t even compete. The German’s engineering thought is I can design it better and everybody will love it and then they use the most obscure UI’s and interfaces to their unit’s (PCMCIA, SD card memory). BT has been only standard in the last few years on them and that is only for calls. Ugghhh.

  • avatar
    plunk10

    Looking forward to more posts by Byron Hurd. That was well written!

    Also, Go Orioles!

  • avatar

    The first time I witnessed the LCD displays in the Ford Fusion hybrid, I was suprised and amazed. It appeared Ford was managing to give people more technology than we German car buyers were getting for 1/3rd the price.

    But with the newest generation of My touch, I’m not happy with the responsiveness of the capacitive touch buttons. (especially in the Lincoln models)

    I actually like Chrysler’s new 8.4 inch XM based device better.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tVe-gg9Ktdw

    Thing is, I though by now, Apple would have taught these touchscreen interface manufacturers some lessons in navigation of the GUI and connectivity updatability. But, it seems they have not listened.

  • avatar
    Davekaybsc

    Frankly I’m surprised that none of this was mentioned in an article called “the truth” about MyFord Touch:

    “They told me that at the root of the problem was that Ford decided to largely scrap their own codebase and hire BSQUARE Corp (BSQR) to recode the next generation of Sync. The move seemingly made sense. Ford already had a close partnership with Microsoft Corp. and BSQUARE was a company founded by ex-Microsoft employees with close ties to their former employer.

    But the results Ford received were poor. Our source described BSQUARE’s coding process as “Guy A sitting in room 1 writing code and guy B sitting in room 2 also writing code, with neither knowing what the other is doing.”

    Our source said that at the end of the day the resulting app was bloated and inefficient.

    “Who would you say is to blame?” I asked. They replied, “I’d say 70 percent BSQUARE, but 30 percent Ford for choosing BSQUARE.”

    So that’s the dirty little secret behind MyFord Touch and its issues.

    Oh, and according to my source the recent rebooting problems (which I fortunately did not experience) were not nearly as “rare” as Ford’s spokesperson described them as. They said that the recent update did significantly decrease the rate of reboots, but that it still was occurring.

    They also complained that because the updates could only be installed at the dealership, many people were still driving on the road with older versions (and would hence get more reboots). They argued that it would have been wise to incorporate a 3G modem for over the air updates — something Ford discussed, but decided was too expensive at present.

    They did point out that the reboot issue wasn’t entirely new — Ford Sync Gen 1.0 in earlier versions also sometimes rebooted. But rather than going black, the screen would simply throw up a message about that it was “re-indexing” files/assets.”

    Source: http://www.dailytech.com/UPDATED+Test+Drive+2012+Ford+Focus+Looks+Drives+Great+But+Sync+Gen+2+Disappoints/article21495.htm

    • 0 avatar
      mikedt

      “They also complained that because the updates could only be installed at the dealership, many people were still driving on the road with older versions (and would hence get more reboots). ”

      See, that’s a big problem right there. There’s no reason this couldn’t have been designed so that simply slipping in a cd could do a firmware upgrade. PCs, TVs, cell phones do it and tons of other consumer electronics can get upgraded firmware without a trip to the mfg/dealer. This has to be intentional, as a way of getting the customer into the dealer for up-sells.

      • 0 avatar
        Byron Hurd

        I can’t help but think that part of the reason is “chain of custody,” if you will. If Ford has ultimate control over the flow of updates, that’s less code freely available to people who intend to use it maliciously.

        Granted, if they’re determined, it’s going to happen anyway.

    • 0 avatar
      NulloModo

      Right now Ford is working on a way to make certain updates possible via the SD Card slot or USB ports that all of the MyFord Touch vehicles have. You can currently perform certain regular Sync updates via USB, and others require a dealer install. The ultimate goal is to make all of it downloadable and user installable.

      How many people will actually do that is the bigger question. Right now almost any program you install on your computer can automatically download updates and pop up a little status message in the notification area that you just have to click to initiate the install, and tons of people can’t be bothered to do that.

      If it were me, I’d just make it policy that the dealers should check for available updates and install them automatically when vehicles come in for oil changes.

      • 0 avatar
        th009

        The SD slot is an obvious way to do both software and map updates. Many manufacturers offer this capability today, I’m suprised that MyFord doesn’t support that.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        “If it were me, I’d just make it policy that the dealers should check for available updates and install them automatically when vehicles come in for oil changes.”

        Dear God, don’t do that! Once a system works properly, the last thing you want to do is ‘fix’ it. One reason I have so few computer problems is that I spend extra time getting to work exactly the way I want it, and then I lock it down and take an image. I then never update anything, and if any program does get updated, I restore the image. The result is that it always works exactly the way I want it.

  • avatar
    Davekaybsc

    As for the problem of car restorers 50 years from now, I’m sure emulation will easily be able to solve the problem of trying to get a classic car to run 50 year old software.

    If you want to play a Nintendo game for example, you don’t need an actual Nintendo system, nor do you need a physical game cartridge. All you need is an emulator and an image of the original game, both of which can be run on a computer or even a cellphone. 50 years from now, a chip the size of a head of a pin would likely be able to run Sync gen 1 through 20 at the same time.

    • 0 avatar
      Silvy_nonsense

      I don’t think you’re going to win at Pebble Beach in 2072 if your 2011 Audi A8 is running a bunch of software emulators and the MMI is a holographic projection of a touchscreen LCD because that’s what you had to kludge together to make the system seem to work.

      Pulling a busted AM radio out of your ’68 Mustang and replacing it with an emulator – a brand new Pioneer head unit – definitely gives you AM radio in the car, but that isn’t exactly restoration.

  • avatar
    slance66

    For the life of me, I still cannot see how this improves my in-car experience. My 2007 car has a CD player, radio, blutooth phone connection. I can control all three via the steering wheel and phone via voice dial. I could add iPod connection if desired and control it as well. I am steadfastly opposed to being forced to control HVAC functions through any screen based interface. I want simple swiches for that. I will decline Nav on any car that forces the audio and HVAC functions on the nav screen.

    I read reviews of cars and how the car behaves on the road is sometimes an afterthought. Do people leave their homes and go to the car to listen to music? These systems cost more than good home entertainment systems.

    • 0 avatar
      vbofw

      The entire premise of this article is the system merely adds another interface to these. Your steering wheel audio controls will remain, your HVAC knobs will remain (in the Focus for example). And the system is an option. Much like radar cruise, automatic park assist, or xenons, buy the options you see fit.

  • avatar
    jj99

    MyFord is a useless option. However, if Ford is able to make money off if it, great. Toyota is copying it. But, I would never want either. My cell phone has everything I need.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    I’ve written about this a few times, so I’ll say, succinctly, that a touch screen or single-wheel menu is absolutely the right interface for a mobile phone, and exactly the wrong interface for the radio controls on a two-ton hunk of metal hurtling down the road at eighty km/h.

    CR raked the Edge over the coals for this system, and deservedly so.

    • 0 avatar
      Silvy_nonsense

      I’m a fan of Consumer Reports, but their comments about SYNC with myTouch in that review were often idiotic. They sounded like upset octogenarians who couldn’t figure that darned newfangled technological doohickey. (Not all older folks, just the ones who think that the CD player tray in the computer is a cup holder.)

      From the review:
      “If all of the touch controls prove to be too much, you can use the extensive voice command system, so long as barking orders at the radio and heater doesn’t embarrass you.”

      Oh my gosh, I was just mortified talking to my car! I talk to someone in the passenger seat all the time and talk on the phone (through my headset, of course) all the time, but talking to the car itself – the horror!! I was embarrassed!! Bad review due to embarrassment!

      More from the review:

      “Voice command is a boon for complicated operations like iPod or phone control, but overkill for simple adjustments best made with a good old-fashioned knob.”

      Yeah, because moving your thumb a half an inch to hit a steering wheel button, then saying the word “Warmer” is a totally back-breaking, overly complicated way to increase cabin temperature.

      CR is totally freaked about driver distraction and advocates vociferously for prohibitions on everything in cars that could potentially distract a driver. This review seems slanted to support their viewpoint, especially when you consider they attack a great feature – voice command – that is a huge safety improvement over any kind of control that forces you to take your hands off the wheel and your eyes off the road.

      myTouch needs work, no doubt, but after reading the dumb assessments of SYNC in their review of the Edge, CR is the last group I’d trust to give an unbiased assessment of any infotainment system.

    • 0 avatar
      NulloModo

      I know we’ve had this discussion before, but the problem with CR’s results with the system is that they didn’t know how to use it, and tried to focus too much on the touch screen instead of the voice controls.

      Climate and audio controls all have redundant buttons on the center stack, as well as the steering wheel buttons, so you don’t ever have to use the touch screen to access those functions. If you do want to control them via the touch screen, all climate or audio functions can be accessed within the first two menu levels, so one or two touches to get in, making it nice and simple.

      The biggest issue though is that with the voice commands there is no reason to use the physical audio controls (aside from volume, which is a thumb toggle on the steering wheel) or most of the physical climate controls.

      You are right in that a touch screen or scroll wheel is the not the best way to control a vehicle, the voice commands are.

      It annoys me when I get into another car now and I can’t just hit a button and tell the car what Sirius station I want by name, or when I have to use a nav system that makes me click through tons of menus to enter an address instead of just hitting a button and saying ’123 W Unicorn St, Fairyland, FL’, ‘Seminole Casino’ or ‘Mexican Restaurant’ and have it automatically load the address, or a list of whatever category I ask it to call up. If I’m driving and I suddenly come into a thunderstorm, it’s nice to be able to say ‘Weather Map’ to see a Doppler Radar style map showing my location and exactly where the storm is moving, to help me decide which way I want to go. Yes, the MyFord Touch system has a learning curve, and yes, it had a bit of a rough launch, but keep up with the software updates and learn how to use it and it does make your car easier to use as well as far more powerful.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        I disagree.

        You can’t pass a problem by saying there’s a different way to do something. I agree that voice commands work better than menus, but the fact is, the menus are there, and they are a problem. (For an exaggerated example, let’s say that opening the windows on the highway causes the car to crash. If the A/C works fine, and since you can use that instead, are the windows still a problem?)

        Personally, I would never use the climate controls in the MFT because there are real buttons that are easier, quicker, & more reliable. Ford wasted money including climate in the MFT. (My guess is that they have 4 corners of the screen, so they wanted to fill it up with something.) However, the redundancy argument fails because there is no guarantee that there will always be redundancy. For example: there are some radio controls that no longer exist on the dash, like volume. (Yes, it is on the steering wheel, but it is not on the console.) If something that important has already gone away, why shouldn’t we expect other controls to disappear to ‘clean up’ the look? Combined with the fact that some people just can’t get the voice controls to work (I don’t know why–perhaps it is the way they speak), if real buttons ever go away, there simply is no redundancy left, and we are left with a flawed menu system.

        Personally, I laugh at the idea of weather updates in my car. Do you really think that makes a difference? We’re not talking airplanes here. And once again, if you buy anything that needs a software update, it’s already a failure.

  • avatar
    zerofoo

    “It’s the automotive entertainment equivalent of the iPad—pointless, redundant and expensive.”

    Hey now – I love my iPad. It’s way more convenient than booting my laptop for things like reading the news, checking the weather, ordering take-out…..etc. It’s the “appliance” of the computing world – turn it on, use it, turn it off.

    This MyFord Touch thing seems to have none of the benefits of iPad. At least when my iPad takes a dump, I can replace it pretty easily with any number of products. Good luck repairing or replacing this abomination of a “factory radio”.

    Which brings me to my final thought – why don’t car manufactures get out of this software/interface design thing they suck so badly at? Leave good software and design to those that know how to do it – namely Apple or car electronics companies like Alpine. Just give me a place to plug in my Apple/Android/Windows/Blackberry thing and give me normal buttons and switches for the “car stuff”.

    -ted

    • 0 avatar
      Byron Hurd

      I think you guys are overreacting a bit to the iPad analogy. You acknowledge yourself that you have other means of doing all of the tasks you mentioned, yet you spent more money to buy the iPad because you could afford the luxury.

      Doing an absolute cost conversion, you could keep your laptop powered up and ready to go at a moment’s notice for a verrrry long time before you’d spend as much as you did on an iPad.

      And keep in mind that almost all cars these days come with integrated HVAC/audio/navigation equipment, even if they don’t appear that way on the surface. The “simple” control units in most modern cars are far from it, and it’s not just the MyFord Touch buyer who will be screwed if the “head unit” (obsolete term) goes south.

  • avatar
    larrymcj

    To each his own about onboard auto technology. Me…I’m a geek and I wouldn’t drive anything without it. In fact, just traded in a 2011 Lexus RX 350 (mainly because it didn’t have enough cargo room for trips) for a maxed-out Ford Explorer Limited. I was on the fence between the Explorer and an Acadia Denali but everything electronic on the Acadia was totally antiquated.

    I can’t say enough good about the MyFord Touch system…awesome! But then again, I understand others subscribe to the KIS theory and that’s OK, too. But the technology in this totally blows away anything Lexus (Toyota) has…or probably ever will have. And I’m not a Microsoft fanboy…all my computers are Apple and my phone is an Android Incredible.


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