MyFord Touch. Click image to enlarge
By Jim Kerr
I thought I was connected to the world when I purchased my first portable transistor radio as a young child. Listening to radio stations as they skipped through the atmosphere on a cold winter night put me in touch with DJs across the county. Wow, have things changed.
Now, a cell phone is in most pockets or purses, hours of music can be stored on a USB memory stick and the Internet is a main source of information. Automobile electronics have continued to grow in connectivity and the new MyFord Touch system, first offered on the 2011 Ford Edge, sets a new standard of connectivity and information services that leaves every other vehicle communications/information system in the dust.
You may be familiar with Ford’s SYNC technology, which not only connects to media players and cell phones but also can read incoming text messages to you as you drive. As SYNC technology matured, features were added such as automatic 911 calls if airbags deploy.
Now, MyFord Touch uses SYNC to advance to a whole new level.
It starts at the Oakville, Ontario factory. When the MyFord Touch communications module is installed in the vehicle, the vehicle profile is wirelessly transmitted to the vehicle’s WiFi antenna as it rolls down the assembly line. This simplifies production and enables the same part number of communications module to be used in many future vehicles, which lowers cost.
The WiFi system enables a wireless data card to be inserted into one of the two USB connection slots in the console so the vehicle can receive data just like you would on a home computer connected to the Internet. The driver can access it through the dashboard’s eight-inch touch screen when the vehicle is in Park. The vehicle can also become a “hot spot”, where up to five other wireless devices can connect to the same data through a secure password-protected wireless connection. So far, the WiFi system will only rebroadcast the data but Ford communications specialists hinted that there is the possibility in the future of enabling the vehicle to receive data directly through its own wireless antenna. Imagine pulling up to your local Starbucks or Tim Hortons and checking your e-mail on the vehicle display screen without ever getting out of your vehicle.
MyFord Touch is much more than WiFi. The display screen can also show navigation information if a small SD memory card loaded with the Nav program is purchased from the dealer and slipped into the slot in the console. This makes the MyFord Touch nav system as easy to use and upgrade as the aftermarket Nav systems. The navigation directions also show on the right side of the instrument cluster, so you can use the large screen for other displays at the same time. If you don’t need the navigation, you can load your own SD memory card loaded with pictures and display them on the screen.
Another neat feature is the ability to use MapQuest and Google maps to plan a route on your home computer, send it to MyFord Touch website and then when you enter your vehicle, download the route into the vehicle through the Sync connection.
Of course, there are still voice commands, but now there are 10,000 of them, many which are at the first level, which means that they will make something happen. For example, you don’t have to command “Phone” and then say a name. You can simply say “call Mary” or you can enter destinations by just saying the address without having to go through the “Province, City, Street, Number” routine. Talk about easy!
Not all features of MyFord Touch are available in Canada. The TDI (Traffic Direction Information) is a cell-phone based navigation system available in the U.S. but Ford has not yet reached consensus with the phone companies in Canada yet. Travel Link, a service through Sirius Satellite radio shows items like real time traffic congestion, gas prices and weather on the display screen. This isn’t available yet here, but I am told it will be soon.
Even without these two services, MyFord Touch is simply amazing. There is much, much more it will do. Maybe all you use is the cell phone Bluetooth connection, or perhaps you are a hardcore techie with a mobile office. MyFord Touch is adaptable to every need, and with the ability to upgrade, I can’t even imagine what is coming next.