**As published at RCR Wireless News** DEARBORN, Mich. — Ford Motor Co. is playing catch up on a lot of fronts these days, but one area that it’s putting on its priority list in the midst of all these changes is wireless connectivity and touchscreen interfaces. The American icon gave media a tour here at its product and development center to showcase some of its forthcoming improvements on Sync and a new MyFord Touch user interface. Ford hopes these new products will bring its brand more in line with the demands of today’s consumers.
The first generation of Sync was introduced on the Focus in 2007, but Ford is aggressively rolling the technology out across its fleet. Moreover, Ford plans to have its new MyFord Touch interface installed on at least 80% of all of its vehicles by 2015. The new generation of Sync, which uses voice-recognition technology from Nuance Communications Inc., can now recognize up to 10,000 voice commands and uses more flattened grammar to allow drivers to talk in more complete sentences. The goal is to make nearly every function in the car voice-activated. “Drivers can now control most dashboard functions with voice,” said John Schneider, chief engineer for multimedia and infotainment. Driver-connect technology is not a new trend and it’s “been guiding development here at Ford for years,” he added. Whereas Sync is the software that runs at the heart of the system, MyFord Touch is the entire user interface, which includes everything from touchscreen LCDs to controllers and a new media hub. MyFord Touch boasts an 8-inch LCD touchscreen and replaces traditional knobs with touch sensors. “We’ve been trying to keep up with the consumer and especially their relationship with electronic devices,” he said, calling MyFord Touch “a dashboard for the 21st century.” Seamless connectivity, customization, cloud computing, touch and voice interfaces, and personalization are all part of what Ford is trying to deliver with Sync and MyFord Touch. “The most dangerous proposition for drivers are actions or distractions that take their eyes off the road,” Schneider said. As such, Ford has identified “four corners” that drivers can now control with more ease and less distraction: phone, navigation, entertainment and climate. Finally, Ford will also enable drivers to create a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot by plugging a USB modem into the USB port in the MyFord Touch media hub. In essence, the vehicle will be equipped with Wi-Fi, but connectivity will have to be sourced from a USB dongle.