DailyTech just wrapped up a week with Ford Motor Company's (F) MyFord
Touch system aboard a fully-load 2012 Ford Explorer. To give a quick
executive summary, this was a great looking SUV and enjoyable drive. When
it comes to the MyFord Touch infotainment system, I witnessed a drastic
improvement, but one familiar issue (reboots) still proved
a bit of a nuisance.
I. MyFord Touch: Bigger, Better, Faster, Stronger
Last time I used MyFord Touch
(MFT) I rated it a C-, in that I felt it had numerous rough edges that regressed the
experience from the finely polished Sync system we had previously
This time around I'd give the system a solid A-, and add that in its
current form the best comprehensive infotainment solution currently available,
So what made the system so much better this time around? A series of
updates have dramatically improved the speed of animations and the voice
recognition system, which struggled at launch.
When navigating menus the difference is subtle, but noticeable. The
transition from one screen to the next feels faster and the slight pauses of
the original implementation have disappeared. The system still looks the
same, but these improvements made controlling MyFord Touch much fluid.
But the most dramatic makeover has been on the voice command front. The
car is now capable of recognizing a number of similar commands for core
functionality, such as increasing the temperature. For example it
recognized ("Climate", then...) "Make it hotter",
"Temperature Increase", and "Temperature Up". This is
in marked contrast to before, where it didn't seem to recognize either of the
Further commands involving short words, which it previously had trouble with
(e.g. "call mom" or "fm 88.5") it now seems much better at
interpreting. When calling my parents the system did not fail once this
time, where as previously it did not succeed once (!).
Calling some friends, it also was able to call short names like
"joe" and "bob", which it previously struggled on.
The infamous "I'm hungry" was also finally in action. It
loyally asked whether to search nearby or near destination (if navigating) and
offered a list of different cuisines. Again, this command failed several
times when a Ford engineer tried to demo it to me
at CES 2011, and again failed during my late April test drive of the Focus.
As a final note on the improvements, not only did the system seem to be able to
recognize certain commands it could before, it also seemed to have improved in
general voice recognition, as well. Over the course of my test drive the
voice commands I gave only failed two or three times over hundreds of tries,
drastically less than the almost 40 percent failure rate we experienced in the
In short voice control (and animation) in MyFord Touch practically like a whole
new system. Clearly Ford engineers were hard at work pulling off some
magic behind the scenes to return the system to the enjoyable experience we had
II. Reboots -- Why, MFT, Why?
As of four days into my test drive I was gushing. I hadn't experienced a
single negative thus far. That would soon change, when I started my car
when driving home from my running buddy's home. The system rebooted
itself about two minutes after starting.
At first I couldn't figure out what was going on. Why was the temperature
sensor displaying a blank value ("-- --")? Why was the voice
control not responding? Why was the touch interface frozen?
Then the reboot hit.
Fortunately the system recovered itself with about a minute or so, making the
problem just a minor inconvenience. Granted climate and audio are both
tied to the system, so the reboot temporarily killed my air conditioning (the
fans powered off) and the radio (no volume).
About a day later when leaving home I was hit with a second reboot, just a
minute into my drive. Again the recovery was quick, but frustrating.
Then when the vehicle was about to be picked up, I was snagging some last
minute pictures and lo and behold the system decided it had had enough and quit
on my a third time.
I would caution condemning the system due to this issue, as it's more of an
annoyance than a deal-breaker. Still it’s something Ford desperately
needs to figure out, as it's really the biggest remaining flaw in what is
otherwise a remarkable system.
About the best insight I can provide to Ford's engineering team is that the
reboot typically occurs around when the phone connects, during the first few
minutes of the drive.
Speaking of the phone, that's my only other criticism, but I give it with a
grain of salt. I paired my Android phone with MFT and it connected
properly. I set the phone as the preferred device to automatically pair
to, in the MFT interface.
When turning the vehicle on, though, it sometimes would lag as long as two or
three minutes before finally completing the connection to my
phone, despite my Bluetooth being on and seemingly ready. My disclaimer
here is that I don't know whether the issue is on Ford's end or is in the way
the Android 2.3 "Gingerbread" handles Bluetooth connection requests.
It's definitely something Ford should look into, though.
Between the phone pairing issues and the reboots, the first few minutes of the
drive were often more of MyFord Touch were often much more frustrating than the
otherwise blissful remainder of the drive.
III. Why the Critics are Wrong
While the rebooting issues are bothersome, I have to again opine that J.D. Power's quality
downgrade of Ford on the basis of MyFord Touch and Consumer
Report's scathing review of the
system seem a bit unfair and off-base.
The system is completely easy to navigate for all but the most computer
illiterate of users. Anybody complaining about how hard it was to get to
controls clearly has not spent almost any time trying to learn how to use the
system and clearly has little technical knowledge. These publications'
complaints to that end are as ridiculous as complaining that people shouldn't
drive manual transmissions because some uninformed driver doesn't give a single
iota of effort and doesn't understand how to drive one.
Further the system is an optional add-on, so rating down vehicles
due to your feelings on the infotainment system is as ridiculous as if an
audiophile-type auto reviewer downgrade a vehicle based on their feelings on
the premium sound system.
And as to the issue of driver distraction, let me just say the system allows
you to voice control the vast majority of functions in its current form, so the
only real distraction and at worst only requires a quick glance at the dash.
Among smartphone users I know, if they were being honest virtually every one
would admit to at least occasionally using their phone to check the internet,
email, navigate, text, etc. while driving. It's bad, but just about
everyone does it. MyFord Touch presents much of this information in a
dramatically less distracting way. Thus I would argue it's making the
driving experience safer, overall.
MyFord Touch isn't perfect, but it's frustrating to me to see misinformation
continue to be perpetuated by top consumer product quality publications.
I would hope at the very least if they continue in this tact, however, that
they're unilateral in their approach. After all, the recent Blue&Me
and Entune system I've tested seem much more clunky
and less responsive than Ford's. Thus I would expect them to garner at
least as much criticism. If they don't, beware -- there may be something
foul afoot (e.g. the oft-accused payola).
90 percent of the time MyFord Touch is a great experience, thanks to the new
improvements. It reduces distraction, is easy to navigate and shows
increasingly strong voice command prowess. The system is unmatched in
performance. That said, the issue of reboots and slow connections to your
Bluetooth-linked internet source (your phone) mar the experience somewhat,
making it less than perfect.