In my view, one of the most important aspects of next generation vehicles is how well their drivers (and passengers) can interact with them. As our cars become much more complicated machines that provide increasing access to valuable information available through features such as detailed navigation, energy usage statistics, vehicle status reports, and Internet access, they also risk becoming too complicated for people to effectively use them.
Up until recently, this is a fact that auto makers seemed to view as tangential to the overall automobile experience… something that takes a back seat to the actual performance of the vehicle. As a result there are currently many half-thought-out driver interface solutions on the market that create just as much nuisance as they do help. I’m sure many of you have first hand experience with them… feel free to expound in the comments.
But Ford, with their SmartGauge and their previous generation Microsoft SYNC integration, has been pushing the boundaries of the driver interface with innovative, intuitive and extremely useful features for the last few years.
When I drove the Ford Fusion Hybrid last year I was thoroughly impressed with the SmartGauge, but not so impressed with the SYNC system. This year Ford has taken its collaboration with Microsoft a step further in introducing their MyFord Touch system and integration with Microsoft’s “hohm” energy monitoring system. From my initial interaction with the MyFord Touch system at the Chicago Auto Show I can tell you that it is light years better than the previous generation SYNC.
And just yesterday, Ford announced that the MyFord Touch system would get even more useful by providing real time fuel economy coaching and integrating an option for choosing an “EcoRoute” when determining what navigation route to take. As the name implies, the EcoRoute may not be the fastest or most direct route, but it is the route that will save you the most fuel. Up till now there have been several aftermarket accessories that help you to accomplish the same things, but this is the first time that it has all been combined into an integrated OEM device that just works with your car.
The fuel economy coaching feature is designed to work in conjunction with the existing SmartGauge cluster that was pioneered in the Ford Fusion Hybrid, but that now many new Ford vehicles are receiving. The system launches this summer on the 2011 Ford Edge and will be available globally on the 2012 Ford Focus. MyLincoln Touch, an upgraded luxury version of the system, will also be standard equipment on all new Lincoln vehicles beginning with the 2011 Lincoln MKX.
Echoing exactly my sentiments after I drove the Ford Fusion Hybrid, Jim Buczkowski, director of Global Electrical and Electronics Systems Engineering said in a statement, “We have learned that when we provide drivers the information and tools in an interactive and entertaining way, they want to drive more fuel efficiently. MyFord Touch provides an unprecedented level of information and interaction so drivers can make the choice to be more fuel efficient.”
Check out the three short videos below for a quick glimpse of how EcoRoute works, a look at how Microsoft’s hohm system works and more in depth explanation of the Ford MyTouch system. You can also read the full press release on the next page.