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Ford will be offering customers crash courses at their dealerships on how to use their new MyFord Touch voice command system.  (Source: Ford Motor Company)

Inside the new 2011 Ford Edge crossover, customers must use the MyFord Touch system to access climate controls and more. They have three access options -- touch, on-steering-wheel buttons, or voice commands -- but the old physical controls (like heating knobs) have been scrapped.  (Source: Randy Stern via Wikipedia)
Customers will learn how to access new useful commands

MyFord Touch, the in-car voice-command system currently available from Ford Motor Company on the 2011 Ford Edge, significantly flattened the menu structure from its predecessor Sync.  However, figuring out what commands you have access to or where to find certain functions can be a daunting chore.

I. Dealership Crash Course

Ford is perhaps wisely opting to offer users an in-dealership crash course on the system, something it perhaps should have done with Sync.  While more tech-savvy users will likely head online to research new commands, or spend time delving into the menus, less non-technophiles may find the high-tech system daunting.

Ford also will be hiring in-dealership specialists, who will spend 45 minutes or more explaining the technology to prospective buyers at the dealership.

Jim Seavitt, owner of Village Ford in Dearborn, in an interview with The Detroit Free Press, states, "The younger people, and the people who are more sophisticated love it. The less tech-savvy customers need to come back in again."

Mr. Seavitt acknowledges that while MyFord Touch streamlines the menus, it can breed more confusion as the customer is forced to use it to perform everyday in-car tasks, such as accessing the climate control.  States Mr. Seavitt, "Whereas people can choose to use Sync, they have to use MyFord Touch."

II. MyFord Touch?  Too Complex?

The news of the new customer training efforts come as the Consumer Reports released a scathing review of the 2011 Ford Edge, stating they could not recommend it because of the MyFord Touch system.  The review call Ford's menu system complex and distracting to the driver.

Having extensively tested the final version of MyFord Touch at CES 2011 and its predecessor Sync last year, we have a few thoughts on that.  While we agree with some of the publication's comments, we think it missed the boat on the biggest issue and complained about some things that aren't really that big a deal.

First, the Consumer Reports complaints about lack of tactile feedback are fair -- but only if the customers refuse to use the built in voice commands.  Certain functions like changing the temperature are clearly better in knob or voice command form than they are in touch screen form, while driving.  But Ford offers full voice command support for these commands.

Further, the menu system, in our experience is hardly "confusing".  You only have to say one keyword to get to any menu you want (such as climate control), so it's hardly a long process.

Our one big issue with the system is the continued problems with voice command recognition.  During our testing the car we were in was unable to recognize a Ford employee directing it "Navigation" in an attempt to enter the menu of the same name.  The car thought the employee was saying "Temperature 90 degrees".  Similarly the employee's attempts to show off the command "I'm hungry!" (which is supposed to bring up nearby restaurant options) completely failed despite repeated attempts.

Ford is ahead of its competitors in voice recognition (its system at least recognized the majority of our command attempts), but this remains a big issue.  It is made bigger by some users' lack of technical prowess -- something Ford's new training may help to partial offset.

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By stromgald30 on 1/21/2011 1:29:47 PM , Rating: 2
I think they already do that. Many of the touch screen's features are disabled while the car is moving faster than a crawl.

IIRC, the screen becomes just a status display with basic radio and air conditioning controls. You can't customize browse the internet or change detailed settings while driving.

By Lazarus Dark on 1/21/2011 7:38:59 PM , Rating: 2
That's the point, those basic controls still need to be manual knobs! if your basic radio or air controls are on the touchscreen, you have to look at the screen:CRASH!
Manual knobs can be used without looking once the driver is familiar enough with the car.

Cars shouldn't have "entertainment centers". Navigation is good as long as it has good voice commands, since it's better than trying to look down at a paper map, but that's about all the driver should be able to do once moving.

By Jalek on 1/21/2011 8:32:31 PM , Rating: 2
I know I certainly never scroll through my mp3 playlist... at least I try to only do it at lights. No knobs there, or on the car stereo. Old tech isn't necessarily better.

I had a brand new Plymouth Laser run into my pickup in 1992 while the driver was playing with the flashing lights. They've been doing it forever with instrumentation, the radio being complex seems rather minor.

"The Space Elevator will be built about 50 years after everyone stops laughing" -- Sir Arthur C. Clarke

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