Ford's new interface proves there is a price for fast innovation.
October 21, 2010
By: Nick Saporito
Ford is now considered one of America’s most innovative companies. One of their most focused areas of innovation has been on infotainment, a critical area that is of the utmost importance to American car buyers. It started with SYNC back in 2007 and since its launch the flood gates have opened in Dearborn to innovate off of the SYNC platform nearly as fast as Silicon Valley. That innovation has now spurred MyFord and MyLincoln Touch. The suite of new features and a user interface that is extremely innovative, but the system shows the price one most pay for quick innovation.
MyFord/Lincoln Touch encompasses the use of two 4.2-inch LCD displays in the gauge cluster in lieu of traditional analog gauges. Ford is certainly not the first automaker to utilize LCD panels in the gauge cluster, though they are the first to get such a wide array of usage out of them. The right side panel can display everything from the battery and signal levels of your cell phone to the temperature of the driver’s ambient.
The left panel is strictly for vehicle information. Fuel level, engine temperature, engine speed and all of the other traditional driver information center statistics are found there. For example, one can display fuel economy in three different ways on that one LCD. Again we have a level of innovation that is nothing short of incredible with the system.
All MyFord/Lincoln Touch vehicles are also equipped with an eight inch LCD on the center stack. This display is laden with elaborate animations and graphic sets- perhaps some of the best in the industry. The fancy UI controls everything relating to communication or entertainment. You can even connect your vehicle to a wireless router from this screen, yes like a computer.
But the eight inch display is also where this high level of innovation starts to become tarnished. While the small LCD’s in the gauge cluster react quickly and effectively, commands issued from the larger display tend to lag, stall and become an overall annoyance.
Having experienced the system in several vehicles—most of which were regular production units—it seems to be an inherent trait of the system.
Almost any touch of a soft button on the display results in a lag within the UI itself. For example, touch a preset radio button to change the Sirius channel and the channel changes before the UI registers the change on the display.
Voice controls become another issue with the system. For example, while playing an iPod through the USB, commands that are typically not a problem for SYNC…results in a failure. Saying “Play playlist recently added” is unrecognizable by the system, yet works fine in older applications of SYNC.
On a recent trip back from the airport MyLincoln Touch was very cantankerous with entering a destination via voice control. To make matters worse, it would tell you what information it wanted you to say before the screen was displaying the options, the lag problem rearing its ugly head.
MyFord/Lincoln Touch is supposed to lure in Generation Y buyers, but Generation Y buyers are used to multi-core processors on their PC’s and smartphones that pack a higher punch than computers just a decade ago. The lag within the UI is of MyFord/Lincoln Touch is something most buyers are going to notice quickly.
Ford deserves a tremendous amount of credit for innovating so quickly. In concept the new MyFord/Lincoln Touch system is terrific. The intention of the system is terrific. Unfortunately there tends to be a price to be collected for fast innovation, just ask Apple. The system’s inherent UI lag and so-so voice control seem to be the price in the case of MyFord/Lincoln Touch. Perhaps a software update will resolve the issues? We shall see.