At the Consumer Electronic Show today, Ford demonstrated linking smart devices like Amazon Echo and Wink to its vehicles to allow consumers to control lights, thermostats, security systems and other features of their homes from their car, and to stop, start, lock, unlock and check their vehicle’s fuel range from the comforts of their home. Ford is developing ways to pair millions of SYNC®-equipped vehicles globally with home automation devices or smart home products. For more on this topic, read the Ford press release, “Smart Cars Meet Smart Homes” or watch the Ford video with a C-MAX on youtube.
Over the past couple weeks, there have been many news and rumor articles that will affect future and perhaps current owners of Ford vehicles with MyFord Touch and older Sync infotainment systems. Sync is the in-vehicle communications and entertainment system developed by Ford that uses the Windows Embedded Automotive operating system designed by Microsoft. Sync with MyFord Touch is the second-generation infotainment system used in more recent vehicles. The unreliability of MyFord Touch/Sync has been cited by J.D.Powers & Associates as the primary factor contributing to a decline in Ford’s reliability standing for new car purchasers. Ford has more than 10 million vehicles that include Sync. The current version of MyFord Touch is 3.6.2, which was released in August 2013. I’ve been using it since I purchased my own Ford C-Max Energi the same month. I haven’t had problems with MyFord Touch as others have reported.
On February 24th, Bloomberg reported that Ford will base the next-generation Sync software on Blackberrry’s QNX and no longer use Microsoft’s Windows Embedded Automotive operating system. The QNX CAR application platform is running in over 20 million vehicles as of mid-2011. According to Bloomberg, the switch to QNX will improve flexibility and speed of Ford Sync while decreasing the cost. An article in Fortune reported, “Ask analysts what reputation QNX carries, and you’ll get phrases like ‘rock solid’ or ‘a solution for things that can’t crash’…” According to the Detroit News, a source with a knowledge of the plans to switch to QNX said, “the automaker could easily update the software of those vehicles already equipped with Sync to the BlackBerry software [QNX].”
According to Apple’s March 3rd press release, CarPlay, “the smarter, safer and more fun way to use iPhone in the car”, will be included by Ford in vehicles. Apple said that many other makers, including Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz, Volvo, BMW, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar Land Rover, Kia, Mitsubishi, Nissan Peugeot, Subaru, Suzuki, and Toyota will include CarPlay in vehicles. For more information on CarPlay, see this description at the Apple Website or read the description below from the press release. CarPlay requires a Lightening-enabled iPhone running iOS 7 – the 5s, 5c and 5 are the only iPhones meeting both requirements. An article in N4bb.com states that CarPlay could become the biggest competitor to QNX CAR. It suggests that CarPlay runs on top of the QNX real-time operating system kernel. They quote Paul Leroux of QNX, “Connectivity to smartphones and other mobile devices is a key strength of QNX Software Systems’ platform for car infotainment systems, and many automakers and tier one automotive suppliers use our platform to implement smartphone/head-unit integration in their vehicles. We have a long-standing partnership with Apple to ensure high-quality connectivity with their devices, and this partnership extends to support for Apple CarPlay.”
Apple’s description of CarPlay: “Once iPhone is connected to a vehicle with CarPlay integration, Siri helps you easily access your contacts, make calls, return missed calls or listen to voicemails. When incoming messages or notifications arrive, Siri provides an eyes-free experience by responding to requests through voice commands, by reading drivers’ messages and letting them dictate responses or simply make a call. CarPlay makes driving directions more intuitive by working with Maps to anticipate destinations based on recent trips via contacts, emails or texts, and provides routing instructions, traffic conditions and ETA. You can also simply ask Siri and receive spoken turn-by-turn directions, along with Maps, which will appear on your car’s built-in display. CarPlay gives drivers access to all of their music, podcasts, audiobooks and iTunes Radio℠ with easy navigation through listening choices from the car’s built-in controls or simply by asking Siri to pull up what you’d like to hear. CarPlay also supports select third-party audio apps including Spotify and iHeartRadio, so you can listen to your favorite radio services or sports broadcast apps while driving.”
Now, adding to the confusion, CNET quotes Pin van der Jagt, a Ford managing director, “Sync 1 and 2 was done with Microsoft but we are not married with them. For us, it’s a supplier, so every time we keep evaluating is it the right partner.” He continued, “That [the switch to QNX] is a rumor. What we are in the process of, we are spec’ing out our requirements for the next generation: what we want to do, what features we want to add, what functionality. Then you go through a normal supply selection process. Those requirements for the next generation get sent out to everybody, to Microsoft, to Apple, to everybody, and they come back with offers… We go to evaluation and make a choice and that choice hasn’t been made yet.”
It’s not clear to me right now, just what it all means for current or future owners of the Ford C-Max. I would love to have CarPlay support. I use an iPhone, iPad and iMac. To have my car integrate closely with these Apple devices I use currently would be a big benefit, but not enough to sell the car and get another that supported CarPlay. It would be nice if Ford allow current owners of MyFord Touch to upgrade their infotainment system for free. The warranty on MyFord Touch is now for 5 years and unlimited miles. Even an upgrade for a fee may be worth it to me.
What’s your opinion?