CES: Ford Shows the Truly Connected Car

MyFord Touch interface will bring Wi-Fi, Web apps, and touchscreen controls to Ford cars.

Ford's Connected Car

Ford is taking in-car connectivity to a whole new level at this year's CES. The automaker is using the show to demonstrate its updated Sync technology, which is the basis for Ford's new driver interface and dashboard design called MyFord Touch.

Delivering the opening keynote at CES on Thursday, Ford CEO Allan Mulalley said the company will bring Wi-Fi and Web apps, like Pandora and Twitter, to Ford automobiles.

Ford plans to eventually add MyFord Touch, which marries voice recognition, graphic screens, and touch controls on the steering wheel, to models across its product line, according to company executives. The new console will first be available in the Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX, but, starting in 2012, it will also ship globally in one of the company's most affordable models, the Ford Focus -- a move to "democratize" a high-end technology that offers safety benefits, company executives said.

Familiar Controls

Ford's Sync technology, which was built on Microsoft's Windows Embedded Auto platform, was initially aimed at connecting drivers' electronic devices, such as mobile phones and music players, to a voice-command system in the automobile.

In its newest incarnation, however, it aims to use interface controls familiar to consumers to connect drivers to the vehicle's functions as well. For example, the five-way controls on either side of the steering wheel are reminiscent of those found on mobile phones and MP3 players.

In-Dash LCDs

MyFord Touch displays include two small color LCD screens on either side of the speedometer, with the left-hand one showing vehicle functions and the right-hand one displaying entertainment, phone and data controls.

Vehicle System Check

The screens on either side of the speedometer measure 4.2 inches. This close-up image shows the System Check screen on the left of the speedometer, where the driver can monitor the performance of the automobile.

Control by Voice or Buttons

This close-up photo shows the option for controlling the car's phone, entertainment system, navigation system, and climate control systems from the display that sits to the right of the speedometer. It can be controlled by voice or by using the buttons on the steering wheel.

Pandora Radio Comes to the Car

Ford showed its new in-car Pandora Internet radio app it in a car outfitted with Sync (but not the new MyFord Touch interface). Sync's voice-recognition system can be used to interact with the Pandora app running on a mobile, and the car's pre-set radio buttons on the dashboard can be assigned to Pandora's virtual stations.

Touchscreen Command Center

One of the key features of MyFord Touch is the 8-inch touchscreen LCD that sits at the top of the center stack. It has a customizable interface, so that a driver can choose to display his own choice of functions rather than navigate via menus.

The media hub on MyFord Touch systems includes two USB ports, an SD slot and RCA audio/visual input jacks for connecting gadgets. The car also can become a WiFi hotspot when a USB broadband modem is connected to one of the ports (browsing for passengers only, please).

Hands-Free Calling

MyFord Touch will offer hands-free calling and notification of incoming text messages. The system will read the message out loud, and the driver can respond with one of 15 generic pre-programmed responses.

Mapping the Way

The 8-inch touchscreen also displays the car's navigation data, shown here with 3D mapping. The SD slot on the media hub is the new home for navigation system data, which can be uploaded to add map-based navigation to the basic graphical turn-by-turn directions that are standard with MyFord. Placing all the navigation data on an SD card also solves the problem of having to upgrade old map information.

911 Assist

The 8-inch touchscreen also provides a point of access to the 911 Assist service.

Shortcuts to Vehicle Settings

The touchscreen provides shortcuts to control many of the vehicle's settings, including heating and cooling seats and the steering wheel.

Control the Lighting

Drivers can use the touchscreen to control the vehicle's ambient lighting.

Jason Johnson

Jason Johnson, a Ford user interface design engineer on the MyFord Touch project. He says the MyFord controls were designed to be familiar to consumers.

Today's Best Tech Deals

Picked by PCWorld's Editors