Ford Motor Co. has rolled out advancements in "driver connect technology" that draw on the strengths of consumer electronics interfaces to help drivers manage vehicle information.
Known as MyFord Touch, the new technology uses voice controls, touch screens and phone-style buttons on the steering wheel to facilitate communication with infotainments systems, climate controls, navigation devices, phones and other in-car systems. The new technology is expected to enhance eyes-on-the-road driving while providing connectivity to phone calls, text messages and navigation services. Ford unveiled it at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas in January.
Ford CEO Alan Mulally told a standing-room-only audience at CES that MyFord Touch will keep "our customers connected with their friends, with their favorite entertainment sources and with all the very latest information."
The new technology is essentially the latest generation of the Ford-Microsoft voice-based Sync project, which was unveiled at CES three years ago. It enables drivers to connect to Bluetooth-enabled cell phones, as well as to USB-based devices, such as thumb drives and iPods. Ford engineers said MyFord Touch displays information on two 4.2-inch full-color LCD screens, which flank an analog speedometer, and on an 8-inch touch screen LCD at the top of the center stack. A five-way switch on each side of the steering wheel crossbar — similar to the ones found on most mobile phones and MP3 players — controls the information on the instrument panel screens.
At the show, Ford engineers demonstrated MyFord Touch's voice capabilities by having dashboard software read aloud from a text message sent to the speaker while on stage. They credited Nuance for helping with the voice control effort. "The Nuance team was invaluable in improving voice recognition and simplifying command sequence, using fewer words to get what you want," said Jim Buczkowski, director of global electrical and electronic systems engineering for Ford. "With their help, we've been able to flatten the required grammar sequences and make Ford voice control more conversational."
According to Ford, the new driver connect technology will be branded as MyLincoln Touch and MyMercury Touch on Lincoln and Mercury brand products. It will be available in showrooms later this year.