Ford: Distract Smarter, Not Harder
Ford has released a study (via PR Newswire) that shows its proprietary (for now) SYNC system reducing the amount of time spent looking away from the road while performing tasks that probably shouldn’t be done while driving anyway. Want to find a new song on your iPod while doing 65 on the freeway? Ford says that without SYNC this task can take 25 seconds of crash risking attention from the road. With SYNC, the task is done in a mere two seconds. Reading a text can take 11 seconds, but Ford claims that SYNC’s text-to-speech output can reduce the task to two seconds. “We know people want to stay connected in their vehicles, so Ford is continuing to deliver that connectivity for them responsibly and safely, says Susan Cischke, Ford’s group vice president of Sustainability, Environment and Safety Engineering. But unfortunately, their study used subjects who were already regular SYNC users. If you’re still getting used to the system, fiddling with it could return your in-car cell phone use to DUI-levels of danger. After all, how hard is it to wait for a light (or heaven forbid, suffer through a song you don’t like) before messing with your iPod? Luckily, if you do crash while playing with SYNC on the go, Ford has added an Onstar-like 911 feature to rush rescuers to your mangled Focus. Or if you want OnStar-like features from a non-Detroit OEM, that might be in the cards as GM is in talks to license its in-car Big Brother.
People really need to learn driving w/o distractions when growing up so that they (hopefluly) practice that when they are driving alone. I toss my phone(s) in my laptop bag, don't use the cd changer, and make my wife use her ipod on headphones while I drive. Then again, I've been in one accident and it was 14 years ago (I was a teenager -- and distracted with the radio). YMMV.
The fact is people are not going to give up using cell phones while driving, nor are most drivers so obsessed with the task of driving that they won't play with the radio while doing it. Thus Sync makes a lot of sense by making it easier to do what 90% of drivers are going to do anyway. One important point is that there are a few different versions of the system out there. The basic version that comes with cars without navigation is very easy to pick up, and handles your basic call duties and music navigation. Ten minutes with the manual, or five minutes listening to your salesman demo it before you take delivery will give anyone the basics. The version with voice activated nav in 2008 models and select 2009s (any that use the nav DVD instead of the hard drive) sucks balls. Functionally, a little better than the basic, but more convoluted. Thankfully, the 2009 HD nav version (and what will be on all future vehicles with nav, and some without) is the best. You don't have to go through different menus for most functions, you can control anything from climate to music to directions to the phone with one button and one command, and it has a voice learn function to pick up users with strong accents. There is a reason all of the automotive press has had only positive things to say about the system, it is hands down the most user friendly technology to car bridge out there. If Ford is smart they will pay whatever they need to in order to keep it exclusive for as long as they can.
Ford doesn't get to say they do too many things better than BMW, but SYNC is definitely better than IDrive.
I gotta tell ya, SYNC is for me. I looked at the old TSX, the new TSX, the GTI, the GLI, the Saab 9-3, used 3-series, everything with an eye toward driving dynamics... Then I see what SYNC can do. And how a car can become part of my flow and disappear into my life. It can help me work, play, and relax. A Fusion may not be as streamlined as the cars above, but it streamlines many other aspects of my life. In other words, although my wife is hot, I really appreciate everything ELSE she can do besides look good and go fast.