Car Tech: My Ford Touch. Valuable tool or distraction?
The second I pressed the start button in the snappy red Ford Edge I knew I was in one smart car as the various elements of the cabin technology flashed to life. My Edge was equipped with My Ford Touch with Navigation and the Sony Audio system panel. The touch cells on the audio panel can control all the audio functions as well the enhanced climate control which allows setting of the desired temperatures like a radio preset. The audio system’s 390 watts of RMS power is pumped into 12 speakers and Dolby Pro Logic creates true virtual 5.1 channel surround sound throughout the car.
Powered by SYNC from Microsoft the My Ford Touch system consists of the main 8″ touch screen in the centre stack, two 4.2″ reconfigurable instrument panel LCD screens flanking the speedometer, 5-way steering wheel mounted smart buttons and a media hub providing two USB ports, SD card clot and RCA inputs. Using Ford’s award-winning HMI (human-machine interface) setup, MyFord Touch seeks to allow a driver to control in-car technology through either voice, touch or the wheel-mounted controllers. As Ford termed it, VUI (voice user interface), TUI (touch user interface) and GUI (graphic user interface).
While that might sound somewhat complex, it isn’t. Ford has broken down all of the possible non-driving-related tasks into four groups: Phone, Climate, Navigation and Entertainment. The various tasks are broken down into four groupings and on the big 8″ touch screen they are assigned different (and customizable) colours. Phone is brown, Navigation is green, Entertainment is purple and Climate is blue.
Next are the two instrument panel LCD screens. The one to the left contains all your usual mileage and fuel information: trip computer, radar cruise control distance indicator, vehicle information and even a tachometer, if you like. In other words, information directly related to operating the car. The screen on the right however, displays information from the four MyFord Touch groupings. The idea is that after a little practice, you will be able to know which group you’re looking at simply based on color – you won’t have to read anything – and your eyes will spend more time on the road. These screens are controlled by the two 5-way switches on the steering wheel.
So far we have a touch screen and 5-way switches to control the various functions but the piece de resistance in My Ford touch is the voice recognition system which is light years ahead of the VR system currently shipping with SYNC. Instead of talking your way through a series of menus (SYNC asks you what source you want, for example iPod, then asks you what track or artist), MyFord Touch allows you to be conversational, just say, “Play ‘Up’ by Shania Twain”..in fact all of the 10,000 plus available commands are equally conversational.
The loaded Edge also includes safety features such as a backup camera and proximity sensors (called Parking Assist) which beeps and shows a rough distance in the display as well as blind spot warning in the side mirrors.
If all of this sounds a bit overwhelming, it is..Ford dealers offer a one hour course to all new car buyers and that can only scratch the surface..My Ford Touch is almost too powerful. I had the car for a week and was only able to scratch the surface. Here are my impressions.
The safety features work well..I really like the blind spot warning..a flashing yellow dot in the appropriate side mirror..a good reminder just in case. The backup camera is helpful provided it isn’t dirty but I really like the beeping sensors..a big help when squeezing into a tight parking spot.
I found the big touch screen really impressive..fairly sensitive to the touch it enables you to control just about everything in the car. In the entertainment Group you can control all the functions of the system..which features AM, FM and Sirius Satellite as well as CD USB input (iPod, Zune, USB Memory Stick or USB WiFi) Bluetooth Stereo and Line in. (the RCA inputs). It also displays controls and song listings for your iPod and it did the same for my Zune player..quite surprising but then SYNC is a Microsoft product.
The phone section is quite powerful..my HTC Desire paired easily with the system but for some reason would not transfer the address book to the car. Not a problem, Ford has Windows and Mac Applications on it’s Sync My Phone web site that allows you to transfer the address book to a USB stick and then to the car through one of the USB ports..pretty nifty I thought. This means no voice tags to record..you can call any number in your address book as simple as saying call so and so at home..work..or mobile. I found it to be reliable and accurate, the most trouble free Bluetooth solution I have tried.
In the Climate Group I didn’t realize there were so many climate options in a car..temperature settings for passenger and driver’s side as well and temperature for the seats..fan speeds and so on..Very comprehensive and intuitive controls.
And finally the Navigation Group. This SD card system has good looking 3D maps with all the bells and whistles and a huge POI list. Destination entry by on the touch screen was simple and intuitive but even better the voice entry was as simple as saying “Go to whatever address” I was impressed. The routings were accurate, the instructions clear and it handled French street names better than some systems.
Overall I was impressed and a bit overwhelmed by My Ford Touch. It is so complex and has so many functions and controls that there is a risk of it becoming a distraction. During the week I drove the car I stuck to the basics and only saw a bit of the power My Ford Touch. If you take your time learning the system and only use the functions you know while driving you will gradually become proficient at using the system. By all means practice when you are parked. Once you get the hang of it I think you will wonder how you drove without it. I know that by the end of the week I was hooked.
Now how much will this cost you? SYNC, My Ford Touch and Audio System from Sony are standard in the Edge Limited and Sport models. The Blind Spot Information System (BLIS) is $650 and includes Cross Traffic Alert and Rain sensing wipers. Navigation will cost you $700. If you want to go whole hog you can add the Adaptive Cruise Control and collision warning for $1500 including brake support which applies the brakes if you get too close to the car in front. Fully tricked out the Edge I drove comes in at a little over $52,000.
This system is also available in the Lincoln MKX and a similarly equipped Lincoln MKX will ring in at a whisker over $60,000