Following a chorus of criticism of its MyFordTouch system, Ford has upgraded the software for the 2013 model year--and will make the upgrade available for all vehicles that have been sold with earlier versions.
The company is continuing to make MyFordTouch available on its lineup of new vehicles.
The latest Ford models to be offered with MyFordTouch are the 2013 Taurus and 2013 Flex--although it is not yet offered on the company's best-selling model line, the F-Series pickup truck range.
It will also be available on the all-new Ford Escape compact crossover, which is to be unveiled to the public next week at the 2011 Los Angeles Auto Show.
Faster responses, cleaner screens
The upgrade includes faster response for touch-screen inputs, better voice recognition, and compatibility with a wider range of mobile phones as well as tablets and Audible.com e-books.
Phone connection on entering the car has been made faster, and Ford improved the noise and echo cancellation for phone calls made through MyFordTouch over a Bluetooth connection.
The screen display designs are simpler, with larger type for the most often used functions, fewer options, and less clutter. Ford says that altogether, it redesigned the graphics of more than 1,000 different screens.
The map and navigation displays are also improved, including a new 3-D display for map data, richer information on nearby landmarks, and photorealistic screen displays of freeway exits and road signs.
Consumer Reports hit
In the latest Consumer Reports magazine reliability survey, Ford tumbled from 10th to 20th place in overall reliability, in part because of consumer reports that the MyFordTouch system was slow to respond, hard to navigate, and sometimes froze altogether.
Ford surveyed hundreds of owners, it says, who said the availability of MyFordTouch is a major reason they bought its cars.
But they also consistently requested better explanations on how the system worked, including both personalized training at their dealers and better tutorials on the SyncMyRide website.
Current users also wanted faster screen response, and Ford says the upgraded system responds to user inputs at least twice as fast as the prior version.
Consumers who already have MyFordTouch in their cars can either perform the upgrade themselves--using a USB drive that Ford plans to mail out--or have it done at a Ford dealer.
Separately, Ford announced last month that it would integrate the ability to read text messages aloud into its SYNC system, and make that capability available as a software upgrade for existing cars.
When activated, the SYNC system will alert the driver that a message is available, and the driver can tell the system to read it aloud via the steering-wheel controls. A choice of 15 canned responses--including "I'm stuck in traffic" and "Too funny"--can be sent in response.
The system will only be able to read text messages from mobile phones that use a specific Bluetooth format called Message Access Protocol, or MAP. The function is built into all versions of MyFordTouch, and is now being extended to the basic SYNC system as well.
Owners can find out whether their vehicle is eligible for this upgrade by visiting the SyncMyRide website and entering their vehicle identification number.