By on November 7, 2011

MyFordTouch was supposed to build on the SYNC system’s momentum, extending Ford’s edge in mass-market infotainment gizmology. Instead, MyFord nearly killed the golden egg-laying goose, by earning Ford a sharp downgrade from Consumer Reports and widespread criticism. Ford has decided that 40-minute training sessions weren’t going to cut it as a response to the complaints that the system was balky and confusing, and The Blue Oval is now trumpeting the all-new for 2013 version of MyFordTouch. Because, in the words of Ford’s spokes-interior-designer-person

As you can see, with a software platform like SYNC, it’s easy to continuously improve and upgrade your system.

You know, in comparison to the all-new Ford Escape she’s sitting in. It’s still not quite as easy as a computer software update: instead of downloading the reflash, you have to go into a dealer to get the upgrade. Meanwhile, this is just the latest hurdle in the hot-hot in-car gizmo side of the business. The big one comes in 2014, when the government issue rules on distraction-mitigation in voice-activated in-car systems. That could make this minor public beta testing fiasco look like nothing…

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31 Comments on “Ford: Wait, We Fixed MyFordTouch!...”


  • avatar
    eamiller

    I believe Ford has corrected the assumption underlying the “It’s still not quite as easy as a computer software update: instead of downloading the reflash, you have to go into a dealer to get the upgrade.” statement.

    From Engadget (link: http://www.engadget.com/2011/11/07/myford-touch-upgrade-inbound-brings-faster-simpler-easier-i/ )

    “Update: Ford has let us know that existing owners will not be required to visit their dealer for the upgrade, and will be receiving a USB drive allowing for a self-install in the mail. That said, you can still drop by your dealer after getting it to have the install done there.”

    Seems pretty easy to me.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      I’ve heard reports of other MFT upgrades via USB that don’t work. The softare installation seems to involve many steps & selections by by the installer, and even then the car doesn’t always take the update. I’ve heard of it hanging up at a certain point of the install and never progressing beyond that.

      A good gauge of the complexity is how much time a dealership wants to perform the free update. The last update took dealerships several hours per car. This one likely will be similar.

  • avatar
    geeber

    At least Ford recognized the problem and has quickly taken steps to correct it. In the bad old days, Ford would have blamed the customers, dealers, Consumer Reports, the anti-Detroit media, etc., etc.

    • 0 avatar
      tuffjuff

      It did take them a while, so long that I passed up the $795 option box for MFT for my 2012 Focus, after seeing a fairly painfully slow demo.

      Still, I didn’t think the navigation was *that* bad, the response time was the problem for me. Good to see they’re FINALLY fixing it, it seemed like forever with how quickly Ford acts for everything else they do…

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      Oh, they certainly ARE blaming customers, Consumer Reports & other reviewers, and anyone else they can hit with a stick. I had a conversation with a Ford programmer who works on MFT. She claimed that ALL the problems are the result of people being technologically illiterate, from customers being scared of technology & too dumb to figure out how to use it, to journalists being unrealistic (including the cnet reviewer who demonstrated flaws in the system and gave concise explanations/demonstration of how it could work better) & claiming they have no idea how hard it is to write software, to Ford’s own dealerships for being too incompetent to correctly diagnose & fix the problems.

      I realize this is the attitude/reaction of a single Ford employee, not the entire organization. I believe–as a company–they want to be responsive, but I recognize that culture doesn’t exist in everyone there. Even this announcement hints at some lingering stubbornness from Ford. In USAToday’s report, they note that Ford will not be dissuaded from the course of MFT, no matter what difficulties or backlash it creates.

      • 0 avatar
        NulloModo

        One programmer does not speak for the whole company. There have been no Ford statements that customers are too dumb to use the system. There were some statements that proper training on the system wasn’t taking place at the dealership level, and that dealers weren’t teaching customers how everything works during the vehicle delivery process.

        There were essentially three problems going on all at once: 1) the system, especially in early versions of the software, was buggy, 2) the sheer amount of stuff that MyFord Touch could do combined with an option-rich interface created a steep learning curve at the same time that Ford was pushing the system throughout the model range to customers who may not have used in-car infotainment systems before, and 3) the dealer training process was subpar and therefore the training dealers gave customers was subpar.

        Over the past year Ford has been revamping the dealer training system for in vehicle technology and all of the tools are there for any salesperson to learn how to operate the system as well as how to teach someone else to operate it. Accountability has been brought in and several survey questions (which do matter to the salespeople) revolve around how well the MyFord Touch and other in-vehicle technology was explained and demonstrated.

        This new software rewrite essentially fixes the first two problems – the stability and speed of the system will be where it should have been from day 1, and the interface will be redesigned to make for an easier learning curve and user experience.

        MyFord Touch is basically just a branded platform for Ford’s in-vehicle infotainment technology and of course it won’t be abandoned. Every automaker is going to move to similar levels of technology integration in the coming years. Ford got a jump start on many and the system stumbled a bit out of the gate, but it can be refined and honed as Ford learns from the mistakes made early on.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        There are other problems as well. Ford has been having hardware failures, particularly the APIM. They’ve also run into issues with mixing US & non-US parts.

        As I said, I recognize that one person doesn’t reflect the culture of the company (albeit a company’s culture is made up of individuals’ attitudes), but I also recognize that no good company is so stupid as to issue any formal communication that would say such things, even if that’s what every employee feels. So, obviously that’s not the company line, but the big question is: How do they really feel? Do they feel they got an unfair shake from CR, JDP, & others–or do they feel that they really blew it on this one?

  • avatar
    Secret Hi5

    “The big one comes in 2014, when the government issue rules on distraction-mitigation in voice-activated in-car systems. That could make this minor public beta testing fiasco look like nothing…”

    -As you said in that other article, the 2014 “rules” are going to be voluntary. And even if they become mandatory, I would hope that the rules would not be retroactive to existing vehicles. Yes – hope.

  • avatar
    ellomdian

    Anyone who has ever talked to or been involved with Desktop Support could have told you this was coming. At least with BMW’s iDrive, you spent so much on the car that it was bad form to admit that you had no idea how to use the 1st gen system.

    It is sad to see Ford roasted over the coals for this, when the problem lies with the idiot buyers checking the option box – Hurd’s linked article sums up the problem nicely: “It’s the automotive entertainment equivalent of the iPad—pointless, redundant and expensive…It’s a premium option designed for buyers who need to be seen with an expensive gadget…” It’s people pumping ABS and complaining it doesn’t work all over again.

  • avatar
    jj99

    Some news sources are reporting Ford customers complaining the computer malfunctions in MyTouch left them unable to defrost windshields in cold weather. This is a scary safety defect. But, no recall. Welcome to our socialist country.

    Toyota recall campaigns are launched on nothingness, while Detroit gets a free pass.

    • 0 avatar
      drylbrg

      Do you know what socialist means or are you just repeating a phrase that you’ve heard used to criticize the government and thought it could be used for any criticism? You are ass backwards. A socialist government would not hold back on a recall a laissez faire market government would.

      • 0 avatar
        SV

        Thank you. Not to mention the fact that Ford’s non-bailed-out status has made it the darling of those who would normally spout “Socialism!!!11!1!!” at anything they don’t like.

  • avatar
    tced2

    I can’t wait until some folks discover that there are “versions” of hardware and some of those versions will not support the new software – for example, the hardware may start out with 8Gb of flash available and later be upgraded to 16Gb. Those with the 8Gb hardware may be out of luck.

    Or the hardware may start out with the 0.8GHz processor and the new hardware will have a dual-core 1.2GHz processor. The software may run (unacceptably) slow on the older processor.

    Designing the hardware to be updatable makes it more expensive – the cost accountants may veto. And eventually, all hardware becomes obsolete. Can you upgrade a 1990 Intel-386 processor system to an I-7? No. State-of-the art moves on.

    It is not economically feasible to have to trade-in a $30k automobile to get the latest processor/memory/software. This is the reason that an AppleTV will be a tough sell – who wants to buy a new $3k or $4k TV every 2 years?

    • 0 avatar
      Secret Hi5

      On a barely related note–My Android phone was automatically updated recently and not only is it slower now, some functions no longer work properly. While this is aggravating for a phone, it would be worse if it were to happen to my car.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        I had the same thing happen with a DVR from Dish. Even though it worked perfectly, it downloaded a new software version and never worked properly again. They had no way to restore the prior version. I canceled their service over it.

        Softare updates are often not all they’re cracked up to be.

    • 0 avatar
      SpinnyD

      AppleTv is only $99 and has already had an update or two,No need to take it to the Apple store, Can be done from your own Internet connection! I’m not sure where your getting your prices from…….

      • 0 avatar
        aycaramba

        I think Hi5 is referring to Apple’s announcement that it is going to produce and market a television set: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-10-24/apple-effort-to-develop-tv-is-said-to-be-led-by-itunes-creator-jeff-robbin.html

      • 0 avatar
        SpinnyD

        @ aycaramba,

        Apple has made no announcement, there is a lot of speculation in that article. Usually with Apple stuff if the article says “analyst” anywhere in it, it’s probably a lie. Not really sure why Apple would want to get into the TV market with a couple of sets when they are already able to connect to almost all of the ones out there now with what they have.

      • 0 avatar
        NulloModo

        Jobs had referred to AppleTV as a hobby during his tenure. Compared to other iDevices the AppleTV never really received the attention or achieved the levels of polish or market domination that others did, so it makes sense to think that something bigger was in store.

        An Apple branded TV set with custom firmware and app integration could work in the market, but the point made above about expected longevity of a TV set vs. something like an iPhone makes some sense. I’ve had the same TV for eight years. I’ve owned five different phones and three different cars during the same time I’ve had that TV. Still, my TV works fine and even given the drawbacks in weight and footprint of CRT rear projection sets the picture quality is still close enough to that of the day I bought it that I haven’t been driven to upgrade.

        When it comes to cars and infotainment systems, as long as they continue to work as well, or better, than they did when they were new, I don’t think people will feel cheated just because something newer and better comes out. In the case of MyFord Touch the core hardware has remained the same on all versions thus far as I understand. It’s a Freescale iMX51 system on a chip with a 600mhz ARM A8 chip, 512MB of RAM, and 2 gigs of flash memory. Newer software won’t necessarily run slower. If the code is written more efficiently and designed to take advantage of the particular strengths of the hardware it may in fact run quite a bit quicker. Look at current games on the PS3 or Xbox360 – the systems have essentially the same hardware and capabilities today as they did at launch, but the developers have learned how to squeeze the most performance out of what they have to work with.

        Future versions of MyFord Touch will likely have improved hardware and improved functionality, but if this update fixes the problems on what’s out now the current owners don’t have anything to complain about. The original 2008 version of Sync doesn’t do everything the 2010 version of Sync does, but it still does everything it promised to do back in 2008.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    Oh, just wonderful; pay attention to this gadget and take your eyes and concentration from the road, don’t worry you’ve got 10 airbags and full cover insurance!

  • avatar
    Caraholica

    My calender still says November 2011. Ford sure is patting themselves on the back pretty hard for a fix that is so far away.

    Maybe electronic obsolescence is the new longer, lower, wider.

  • avatar
    Spartan

    I’ve had every generation of Sync/MFT and the Nav system/software Ford uses in the Taurus/F-150 is a LOT better than MFT. I had a 2011 Ford Focus Ti with MFT and recently swapped it for a Taurus SHO. The Taurus Nav system is faster, no bugs and still has all the same features without the “hip” myFord Touch branding. The Focus MFT was SLOW, unresponsive, just overall a very unrefined product. It’s a “purty” interface tho :)

    MFT was one of the main reasons we wanted out of the Focus Ti.

  • avatar
    FromaBuick6

    Great, now when are they going to acknowledge the MT-82 problems in the Mustang?

  • avatar
    OldandSlow

    I’ve noticed that a few writers over at Motor Trend seem to have a bad day, if they cannot synch their phone to a vehicle’s infotainment system.

    Also, do the HVAC controls really need to be integrated into the infotainment system?

    I still like my volume and tuning knobs, but I’m not a total Luddite. A voice activated nav system that doesn’t require robo-speak, would be a nice “touch”.

    • 0 avatar
      NulloModo

      As it is MyFord Touch doesn’t require robo-speak, in fact, that’s the biggest strength of the system – it’s by far the most advanced on the market when it comes to natural language processing.

      There is sometimes a delay on the current software between when you hit the voice command button and the system prompts you to speak, but if that is reduced with this update there’s no reason anyone couldn’t handle 90% of the functionality of the system without ever touching the screen.

      There are also already dedicated HVAC controls outside of the screen. The touchscreen has redundant controls, but you don’t have to use those. In fact, you can set the temperature using the touchscreen, the hard controls, the voice controls, or the steering wheel mounted controls.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        That’s true but not the full story. The AC controls are actually controlled by MFT–it’s the knobs that are redundant. When MFT crashes, it thus can cause none of the AC controls to work. That’s a serious architecture problem, IMO. Also, since there are knobs, why bother complicating the touch interface with them as well? My conclusion is that Ford’s goal is to eventually remove the knobs completely.

        As for voice commands, they are pretty much useless when you have others in the car. You have to stop any conversation so you can give the commands (and make sure your passengers don’t behave like trolls to foul things up). It can also be awkward for a passenger if you start talking, but not to them. It’s a lot like the quasi-crazies who walk down the road talking to themselves–you’re never sure if they are on the phone or just nuts.

  • avatar
    tallnikita

    I am now absolutely scared that i share the road with people with these touch screens. Eventually in every care you’d get used to all the buttons and after a time press them without looking. Not so with these multi menus. On percoset etc. scary!

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      I hope the NHTSA comes out against touch screens. Will they ban them? Probably not, but one can hope.

      I honestly believe they only offer negatives when it comes to how they are currently used, including MFT. Traditional controls for radio, AC, and even phone are better operating, easier to use, cheaper, and more robust. And that doesn’t even get into the distraction factor–I still haven’t figured out why they put animated transitions in these things; whom are they for? Obviously not the driver because he shouldn’t be watching it. I conclude it’s a sales gimmick to make it look cool to potential buyers, even if it slows down its use and makes it less safe to use when driving.

      (I can see a touch screen being beneficial on a nav map–pinch & stretch to zoom, drag to move, select locations icons on the map, etc.)

      I also have a severe problem with any system that requires navigating a menu while driving. CR made a video of these types of systems where you have to perform several selections and go through a multiple screens to make the system tune manually, for example. That is a fundamental failure of design principles, and if they were to attempt that in my college design class, they’d fail.

      I think it all boils down to car makers, especially Ford in this case, just wanting to make a quick sale on the wow factor rather than producing a quality product.

  • avatar
    ciddyguy

    The biggest problem with the FMT is that Ford is emphasizing the touch aspects of the system and NOT the other aspects of the system and thus this may be WELL what’s causing the issues with the system as is, let alone the delays in reaction times – and not letting people know that there are duplicate controls, your normal controls for things like heat so if the system crashes, you can still use the system.

    And thus it’s full of fail IMO.

  • avatar
    Luke42

    I still want a Ford-compatible Android or iOS/iPad/iPod/iPhone device that plugs in to my dashbaord.

    I will be keeping my car through many generations of electronics, and I’m not rich enough to buy a new car every time I want to upgrade the electronics. Also, I’ve used both Android and iOS in the car, and I’m far happier with the interface than I am with the rather dated NAV system in my wife’s 2004 Prius.

    Also, if MFT is so great, why aren’t they selling it separately from the vehicle so that I could install it in, say, a Sienna?

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    Much as I like Ford’s products I hope there will always be an option for buttons/knobs for controlling important bits. I like stabbing a button a feeling that I’ve stabbed a button, and I’m not interested in getting fingerless gloves, so that it can read my body heat and recognize that I’m stabbing something.


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