The first time you get into a vehicle with Ford's just-announced MyFord and MyLincoln Touch system (the 2011 Ford Edge and 2012 Ford Focus will be first) it's likely you'll think, "Oh, it's like the iPhone." That will likely be followed by just a few seconds of fiddling as you figure out how to navigate around the system and get to the functions you want.
While we do wonder how Ford pulled it off with a look and feel that's so…familiar…we're glad to see a system that, at least at first glance, looks way less distracting that some of the other infotainment systems and vehicle interfaces out there. MyFord will use an eight-inch touch screen almost completely replacing buttons—also a la iPhone—supplemented with voice commands and steering-wheel-button shortcuts.
In addition to voice commands and steering-wheel buttons, a simple tap of the touch screen will wake it up to whatever command menu you're likely to need.
Various functions are color-coded on the screen, with phone functions orange, navigation green, climate control blue, and entertainment red. The system will still include large dials for essential functions like volume and fan speed, but with a version of MyFord Touch the center stack gets a piano black finish and separate touch-sensitive switches for climate-control and vehicle functions.
MyFord Touch allows two completely different sets of user settings, which automatically engage with respective sets of vehicle keyfobs. Settings can be shared between vehicles easily with a USB thumb drive.
An optional Sony premium audio system will be offered with the interface on some models, including 12 speakers, 390 watts, Dolby Pro Logic II, and an all-digital amplifier. A media hub will provide multiple USB ports, plus an SD card slot and RCA inputs. HD Radio and iTunes tagging will also be included.
The MyLincoln system, to make its debut on the 2011 Lincoln MKX, will use essentially the same screen-based system, but with some added elements. For one, two small 4.2-inch screens will flank a central speedometer, bringing supplemental displays somewhat like what's used in the 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrid. Each of them is separately configurable, with the left one for trip computer and vehicle settings and the right one for music, climate, entertainment, and phone functions.
“The steering wheel has all the necessary functions available in a very compact area, right where your hand falls as you grab the wheel,” said Jason Johnson, Ford's user-interface engineer, in a release. “The five-way buttons will feel familiar to anyone who has used a mobile phone or MP3 player. Drivers aren’t forced to use a quirky or unfamiliar interface like a joystick or rotary knob.”
With MyLincoln, touch-sensitive switches will also be used for "high-level" climate control and audio functions, and exclusively for Lincoln, volume and fan speed will be controlled by touch-surface "sliders," which allow your finder to drag a light from low to high, with ten touchpoints along the scale.
This editor has played with the slider system firsthand in a special preview a few weeks ago, and while the sliders might seem gimmicky, again for anyone who's scrolled on an iPhone it will seem natural. For the volume slider, it takes three swipes from low to high for volume (with adjustable sensitivity).
Personalization and apps
The MyFord and MyLincoln systems will offer many layers of personalization, including three basic layout options, plus a choice of wallpaper images, shortcuts, and 'smart' corner buttons. Various vehicle settings, like auto-locking or headlamp delay, are accessed through menus.
Especially of note is that Ford intends to make its system available for third-party apps, much like those of mobile phones, for a small fee. "Built-in" apps that come with the system will include a Vehicle Health Report and 911 Assist, but versions of Pandora, Stitcher, and OpenBreak are under development. Apps will be beamed in via Ford's Service Delivery Network, which will also supply real-time traffic info.