Ford SYNC Now Available With Feature-Disabling Feature

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

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.

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  • Lawmonkey Lawmonkey on Jul 08, 2010

    I think it would be interesting if instead of turning off features, it would just log what features were in use and when they were used. This could be accessible by a parent, or by an accident investigator. As some have pointed out, I have no issue if you're using this stuff down a mind-numbingly dull stretch of freeway, but if you're futzing and rear-end me, expect a subpoena for that log that will help place blame rightfully on your shoulders.

  • Power6 Power6 on Jul 08, 2010

    This isn't any surprise to me. Most infotainment-GPS systems have some lockouts to prevent distracting function from being used. My Subaru navigation doesn't allow fiddling with the equalizer, typing addresses, phone numbers, or watching DVDs while driving. At least it didn't until I fiddled with some wiring to unlock it. Now my fiancee can do stuff while I drive. There will always be the struggle between factory integrated vs portable devices. Integration is more seamless, and portable devices can be more up to date technology that is useful outside the car. The integrated Nav in my Subaru can do a few things that my Garmin doesn't do: larger map screen with more info, trip computer, dead reckoning via sensors when GPS is flaky, bluetooth phone through the speakers etc. And there really is no portable device that can do the kind of integration that SYNC does. The integration usually costs though. For $1800 I passed on the Nav when I bought my Subaru. For less than a 1/4 of the cost I later bought a stock Nav unit and swapped it in, for that price it is well worth it. I think either the profit margin is high, or the development costs are more than I figure. Subaru is using a couple generations old Kenwood platform when you can buy newer tech for less in the aftermarket. The SYNC is so much more integrated you have to think about it when you are buying the car. Voice commands also make it very easy to use.

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    • BuzzDog BuzzDog on Jul 08, 2010
      $400 dollars for a gimmick that allows you to talk to your radio. That is such a waste of money. My $400, my prerogative. I've never used SYNC, but if it's like other voice recognition systems I've used, you can't truly evaluate it by spending a short time with it on the showroom floor. Most system require a short time in "training mode" to learn your voice, and then adopt to it over time. Also, there's no way to truly appreciate the value of any such feature until you've used it for some time.

  • Sajeev Mehta Sajeev Mehta on Jul 08, 2010

    Good window dressing. The aftermarket/savvy user can find their way around these restrictions through software hacks...or maybe by cutting the speed signal wire between the SYNC module and the engine computer.

  • BuzzDog BuzzDog on Jul 08, 2010

    It didn't take long for people to start posting their judgments as to whether or not people need technology in their I've said it before, Motorola fought the same battles in the 1930s over car radios. Navigation, as well as other smart phone features, will continue to be integrated into vehicles, period. If the manufacturers can't do it, the aftermarket will. I think that most of us would rather have drivers accessing information from steering wheel-mounted controls and seeing the information on the instrument panel, because - regardless of how "illegal" you make it - the alternative is using the phone's touchscreen and tiny display. As for distractions, one could argue that manual transmissions are an accident waiting to happen. After all, the attention given to selecting gears is better spent focusing on the road. Ditto for ashtrays...keeping track of a cigarette diverts your attention. And cupholders? Don't drink and drive; that includes bottled water. But seriously, what I find really irksome is how most audio/GPS/Bluetooth systems are inconsistent in their way of restricting what you can do while the vehicle is moving. For example, I can't scroll past the first screen of the destinations I've pre-programmed into the GPS, yet I can scroll through six screens of radio presets, and hundreds of songs on my iPod/iPhone (not that I ever do). I don't care if the decision is to have total freedom or total lockdown while the vehicle is moving, just be consistent!

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    • BuzzDog BuzzDog on Jul 08, 2010
      Plus, not everyone talking on the phone in the car is doing it for frivolous reasons. +1 My significant other has a colleague who is a gifted transplant surgeon. One time we were dining with him when he got a call, which he took by politely excusing himself and walking outside the restaurant. Another diner was incensed by his "rudeness." What I wish she could have known is that he probably saved a young woman's life with that phone call. It was telling him that a liver was being flown in within the next hour, and that he was needed immediately for surgery. Yet another reason why I get less judgmental of outward appearances as I grow older...