Feb. 09--Ford is taking two steps forward, one step back in refining the MyFord Touch infotainment system to ensure customers remain connected to their devices with less frustration when they are in their vehicles.
New models such as the all-new 2015 Mustang on display this week at the Chicago auto show have the latest telematics technology meant to make connection seamless, intuitive and bug-free.
But the future includes a nod to the past. New models such as the Mustang, F-150, all-new Lincoln MKC compact crossover and updated Lincoln Navigator restore buttons and knobs, those analog relics of the pre-digital world. Drivers can use touchscreens and steering wheel controls if they choose.
"Adding the buttons back was based on customer feedback," said Amy Marentic, Ford's group marketing manager for global cars and crossovers. Ford starts collecting feedback when new technology is launched to respond to customers' concerns. On the buttons, customers are saying they appreciate their return.
Another change is that Ford is adding modems in new models such as the MKC instead of relying solely on connecting with a cell phone -- a reversal of past strategy.
Analyst Dave Sullivan of AutoPacific said having a hard data connection is easier than writing software for the myriad cell phones out there. The goal is to ensure fewer calls are dropped and to enable apps that remotely unlock or start your vehicle.
The automaker has announced plans to host the first automotive mobile app developer conference in Dearborn in June.
Ford and Domino's pizza have developed a phone app that can be used to easily order pizza starting this summer.
A major focus is creating an industry standard to connect phone apps to the car radio.
In September Ford bought Livio, a Ferndale start-up that was already providing an app connection.
The Livio team is working on a tool for dealerships to diagnose problems with a phone's connectivity, said founder and CEO Jake Sigal.
Automakers see the ability to connect smartphones and other devices in the car as a competitive advantage. Nearly all are working to develop the system that will resonate best with consumers.
Ford forecasts 21 million vehicles will have integration systems by 2018, up from less than 2 million in 2012.
A study released last month by the Center for Automotive Research says today's technologically advanced cars have the ability to process real-time data from external sources.
Kim Hill, lead author of the study, said the auto industry spends nearly $100 billion globally on research and development -- $18 billion per year in the U.S. alone -- or an average of $1,200 per vehicle. A key area of development includes connected vehicle technologies that can require about 60 microprocessors and more than 10 million lines of software code in one car.
Ford was an early pioneer with Sync, a voice-activated system, that connected a driver's smartphone to the car.
Ford's next-generation MyFord Touch has encountered complaints of glitches and/or confusion that pushed Ford's quality rating down in third-party surveys.
The automaker has been working steadily to refine software and make the system more intuitive while physically restoring buttons when it redesigns the dash of new vehicles.
Ford also hired former Cadillac executive Don Butler as executive director of connected vehicles and services to continue the work.
Jim Farley, Ford's marketing and sales chief, said Sync has 10 million customers. Ford is devoting considerable resources so the apps function seamlessly and simply.
"We need to make sure we do core things really well," Farley said.
Ford's Sync AppLink is already on 1.5 million vehicles in North America and 3.4 million more Sync-equipped vehicles will qualify for an upgrade to AppLink capability later this year when AppLink will launch in Europe and Asia.
Contact Alisa Priddle: 313-222-5394 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @AlisaPriddle
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Original headline: MyFord Touch evolution includes apps and buttons
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