As automakers seek out technology partners for their on-board electronic devices, Ford is leaving Microsoft by the side of the road for a variant of BlackBerry’s QNX-based operating system in future updates to the Blue Oval’s long-suffering SYNC/MyFord Touch infotainment systems.
While much of the attention focused on Ford Motor Company’s personnel news has been focused on CEO Alan Mulally’s announcement that he’s not leaving for Microsoft, FoMoCo has made another important decision, who is going to head one of Mulally’s pet projects, Ford’s in-vehicle communications technology. Automotive News reports that Don Butler, 50, the highly regarded longtime General Motors executive who most recently was in charge of Cadillac’s global growth strategy and before that headed the brand’s marketing, was named executive director of connected vehicles and services, effective immediately. (Read More…)
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…
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.
We’ve devoted considerable bandwidth here at TTAC to the inevitable conflict between Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood’s campaign against distracted driving and the ever-increasing array of distractions offered by popular in-car electronic systems like Ford’s SYNC. While automakers are forever striving to offer more and more connectivity, politicians are waking to the realization that these systems prevent drivers from focusing on their driving. And now, it appears, Ford is finally getting on the same page as the pols. The DetNews reports that SYNC-equipped 2011 Fords will come with a “do not disturb” feature that
locks out capabilities “not relevant to the task of driving while the vehicle is in motion.” Ford also is barring any action that requires typing on a keypad and limiting lists of navigation and phone choices to fewer entries — like phone contacts or recent phone calls.
With this pre-emptive strike, Ford is trying to protect a system it says helps sell cars from regulation as a dangerous in-car distraction. Will a “do not disturb” button really help prevent accidents? Ford had better hope so, and it had better hope the data comes in looking mighty conclusive. Otherwise, systems like SYNC could find themselves on the wrong side of Washington DC in the near future.
GM’s OnStar division is preparing for a big push into new info-tainment and connectivity services, and it’s launching the effort at Google’s I/O conference starting tomorrow. First up is a new Google-maps-based navigation feature for Android phones running the Chevy Volt mobile app, featured in the video above [presser here]. Though this new navigation system won’t be available at launch, but will emerge in a 2.0 version of the Volt mobile app, it hints at a new direction for OnStar, which traditionally markets itself as a safety feature. A senior (anonymous, sorry) source at GM took a moment to explain where this is all heading…. (Read More…)
The Highway Loss Data Institute, an affiliate of the Insurance Institutes For Highway Safety, reports that an audit of insurance claim filings shows no reduction in claim amounts in states with bans on cell phone use in cars. According to the report:
HLDI researchers calculated monthly collision claims per 100 insured vehicle years (a vehicle year is 1 car insured for 1 year, 2 insured for 6 months each, etc.) for vehicles up to 3 years old during the months immediately before and after hand-held phone use was banned while driving in New York (Nov. 2001), the District of Columbia (July 2004), Connecticut (Oct. 2005), and California (July 2008). Comparable data were collected for nearby jurisdictions without such bans. This method controlled for possible changes in collision claim rates unrelated to the bans — changes in the number of miles driven due to the economy, seasonal changes in driving patterns, etc.
Month-to-month fluctuations in rates of collision claims in jurisdictions with bans didn’t change from before to after the laws were enacted. Nor did the patterns change in comparison with trends in jurisdictions that didn’t have such laws.
Automotive News [sub] reports that supplier giant Denso, which is 23 percent owned by Toyota, will launch a competitor to Ford’s Sync system. The system, named Blue Harmony, will provide music, directions, e-mail, Internet radio, news headlines and other driver distractions through a touchscreen on the center of the instrument panel, according to Denso sources. The system will use Denso apps to bring Pandora internet radio, Facebook, Flickr and other web-based services to the Blue Harmony platform.
Amid the cries of shock around the blogosphere at the sudden death of the Kia Borrego, another tidbit of more consequential Kia news remains undercovered. And it’s actually bigger Ford news than anything else. Ford had deal with Microsoft for exclusive access to the technology underlying its Sync system. But with Ford’s 18 month term of exclusivity expired, Kia is set to formally announce its Sync-alike at next Tuesday’s International Consumer Electronics Show. Shooting for the middle ground between Ford’s apt “Sync” brand name and Fiat’s asinine “Blue&Me” moniker, Kia has called the system “Uvo” (Short for “Your Voice,” believe it or not).