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Ford may fall even further in important ranking

Ford learned a valuable lesson last year when it equipped hundreds of thousands of Ford and Lincoln vehicles with versions of the MyFord Touch system for controlling entertainment and climate systems inside the vehicle. The problem was that the interface was cumbersome and difficult to navigate leaving many users confused and distracted while driving.

The complicated nature of the system led to Ford taking a beating in the important J.D. Power Initial Quality Study rankings in 2011. In 2011, Ford plummeted from seventh place to 23rd place in the Initial Quality Survey rankings simply because of MyFord Touch.

Ford started working immediately to make the system better, promising a major update that would make the system easier to use and simplify the screens. The bad news for Ford was that the update didn't land until March. The cutoff for the system be considered for this year's Initial Quality Study rankings was February.

"We expect to do about the same or a little better than last year," said Bernie Fowler, Ford's vice president of global quality. 
 
"Technology is one of the main reasons why people see us differently now today than they did just a few years ago," Jim Farley, Ford's group vice president for global marketing, sales and service, said to reporters Tuesday.
 
Despite the huge dip in rankings based on the technology, Ford remains committed to adding technology in automobiles and its MyFord Touch and MyLincoln Touch systems.
 
"They certainly have made some improvements," said Edmunds.com Senior Analyst Michelle Krebs, who reported problems getting the voice-recognition system to locate certain cities. "Whether they've gone far enough remains to be seen."
 
Ford sent out upgrades to the system to owners of vehicles equipped with the optional hardware on a USB flash drive. The drivers plug that flash drive into the USB port inside the vehicle to apply the software update. According to Ford, 90% of the 377,000 vehicle owners who receive the software update have installed it, and 70% of those people installed the software without assistance from a dealership.

The official J.D. Power rankings will be released later today. 

Updated @ 2:07pm
The official rankings are out and Ford dropped from 23rd place down to 27th place -- worse than Ford predicted.

Sources: Detroit News, Inside Line, J.D. Power



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Time to wake up
By Beenthere on 6/20/2012 9:24:07 AM , Rating: 3
BMW has suffered a lot of customer backlash from trying to force consumers to adapt some half-arsed infotainment system that combines with basic car controls. Most consumers do not want to have to go thru a half-dozen screens to change the audio volume or turn the interior lights on...

While the game mentality design may work in other environments, the combined control systems are a total PITA to actual use while driving, a major distraction and point of aggravation for most drivers.

It's time the car makers stop trying to force bad tech on drivers.




RE: Time to wake up
By Capt Caveman on 6/20/2012 9:29:23 AM , Rating: 2
Worse than the confusing navigation are the bugs. I know folks that have been forced to pull over and restart/reboot their vehicle/MyTouch just so that they can turn the heat on and other things. Unacceptable.


RE: Time to wake up
By Nortel on 6/20/2012 9:40:04 AM , Rating: 4
If there is ONE thing I wouldn't want in my car, its to have to pull over to reboot it.


RE: Time to wake up
By Flunk on 6/20/2012 10:05:45 AM , Rating: 2
I totally agree. I would buy a lower-trimline car just to avoid this junk. My current vehicle doesn't have any touchscreen controls and the physical buttons all work very well and I can get what I want quickly. Why pay more for something that is worse?

This seems more like a fad than anything else.


RE: Time to wake up
By Brandon Hill (blog) on 6/20/2012 10:37:24 AM , Rating: 2
Have you seen the commercials for the new Cadillac XTS? Damn thing has a multi-touch screen for most secondary controls (along with a few touch sensitive buttons).

That is an epic fail for its intended market: old dudes over the age of 60.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DJgchB9TS_8


RE: Time to wake up
By SeeManRun on 6/20/2012 10:50:26 AM , Rating: 3
I think you guys are missing the point. The first generation is a replacement of what already exists, and it is a bit finicky to get right since people have decades of experience on the old system. But, what will these new interfaces allow you to that is currently not possible with the existing configuration? Perhaps you never use AM, so disable that button, or you have no CD's, so disable that button and make it disappear. A customized interface based on the driver is where we are going, so you can "design" the perfect interface for you and your current drive.

It is an evolutionary process, and for a tech site, it seems most commenters are stuck in the past and don't want companies to innovate unless they can come out with a perfect product on the first go.

Remember the iPhone? No copy and paste...


RE: Time to wake up
By wallijonn on 6/20/12, Rating: 0
RE: Time to wake up
By Jaybus on 6/20/2012 1:32:00 PM , Rating: 2
Ummm, Ford DOES have voice commands, and they work very well. You just have to learn the syntax.

As for the LCD, yse, any LCD is completely useless in bright sunlight. I would have much preferred an e-Ink screen like a Kindle. I can read my Kindle while sitting on the beach with sunglasses on. If while reading on the beach I get a text on my iPhone, I have to remove sunglasses, turn my back to the sun, and cup one hand over the top it just to have a chance at seeing it. Frankly, I would much prefer e-Ink on a phone as well.


RE: Time to wake up
By Brandon Hill (blog) on 6/20/2012 11:47:30 AM , Rating: 2
The problem is that a touch screen in a car will never be as intuitive or as user-friendly as buttons and knobs.

In my car, I can easily reach out my right hand and adjust the climate control or radio controls because they are physical buttons/knobs, and my hands can easily rest on them to operate. In addition, your brain remembers where those physical controls are most can navigate/push without taking their eyes off the road.

My car also has a touch screen for the GPS/radio/XM, etc, but all of those controls can be more readily accessed using the center stack or steering wheel.

With a touch screen, no matter what control you are aiming for, you will always have to take your eyes off the road to press...ALWAYS... unless you use some form of voice recognition.

But even that is more convoluted than simply reaching out and touching a knob/button.


RE: Time to wake up
By Jaybus on 6/20/2012 1:20:10 PM , Rating: 2
Well, the touch screen mimics buttons and sliders and such, so aren't that hard to figure out. The problem is tactile feedback. Also, like a smart phone, it cannot be seen in bright sunlight.

The bad news is that the LCD screen and lack of tactile feedback in a touch screen have forced me to get used to voice commands. The good news is that the Sync voice commands work really well once you learn the syntax, and assuming you bother to go through the voice training to let it learn your voice.


RE: Time to wake up
By Brandon Hill (blog) on 6/20/2012 1:44:43 PM , Rating: 4
By the time you use the proper syntax and prompts to change the temperature, I've already turned the knob 1/4 turn in my car to get the proper temperature ;)

I just think it's stupid to go down this route with automobiles where driving should be your primary focus. A smartphone or tablet is primarily visual-based, so you've always got your eyes glued to the screen. This is not the case with a car where you eyes need to be on the road as much as possible. So the whole touch screen fad just fails here ergonomically IMHO.

Voice recognition is the crutch to fix the problem, but the "problem" shouldn't be there in the first place.


RE: Time to wake up
By JediJeb on 6/20/2012 6:31:05 PM , Rating: 2
Also I wonder how much a touch screen/voice system will be to fix or replace later on when it breaks? Replacing a knob that falls off should be much cheaper. Also just as in my current vehicle it is 16 years old, how well will this system be supported after that much time? Windows XP is what, a little over 10 years old and you can't purchase it anymore, and if your computer is too slow you can't just upgrade to W7(say you have a computer from 1996 like my truck is). Will quickly advancing computer systems make even 10 year old car's touch screen systems so obsolete that you will find it difficult to repair or upgrade?

These could end up being like the equipment in our lab where the machines far outlast the computers attached to them. When all of your controls fail will you end up having to purchase a new car instead of just a button and switch so you can turn on the heater?


RE: Time to wake up
By Targon on 6/21/2012 12:58:01 PM , Rating: 2
The auto industry has been around for over 100 years now, and as a result, you saw very little innovation prior to around ten years ago. The PC industry has only been around since the late 1970s, but it had taken until the mid 1990s before your average home would have a computer in it.

The element that is currently being focused on is voice recognition and syntax for things like voice commands, and that is the thing that most people have issues with. In general, you don't want to be touching ANY controls for the entertainment system or climate controls, since that means you will be taking your attention away from driving.

One thing that isn't standard are interfaces for various components, and that is a valid concern for future part replacements, but considering how quickly things have been changing, this is to be expected. On the positive side, now that we are moving to these systems being software based, advances can come MUCH faster than previous systems. LCD screens(even without touch screen controls) means that backup cameras and basic navigation(a map that shows where you are, even if you don't have a touch screen) will become standard features in the future.

With all of this going on, things like making almost all features as "modules" means that features CAN be added after a vehicle is sold, and replacing parts in a modular system will be far easier than the old days of needing all those mechanical parts. This may take another decade, but it will happen.

Now, on a different note, the evolution of computers has been so much faster than cars, it makes sense that you wouldn't BUY a new copy of Windows XP at this point, because you already own it. You can't buy a new Dodge Dart anymore either, do you complain that they don't sell them anymore when newer and better cars have come out over the years? Why would you WANT to use an old single-core processor based machine at this point, except to run legacy software? Clinging to the past is the reason why many can't handle what the world CURRENTLY is like, let alone what it will be like in another ten years. Don't cling to the past, embrace change, and you can then handle ANYTHING that life throws at you.


RE: Time to wake up
By Belard on 6/22/2012 9:08:41 AM , Rating: 2
Or... you could have put your finger on a cheap knob, dial, slider or button to adjust whatever needs adjusting.

Like the rear AC for my cross-over, I can feel if its off, I can count the clicks from 0~5 to know what its doing.

With a touch screen, you have to aim your finger at the mode, then adjust it exactly.. if you slip or go to far, you may turn something else ON or OFF.

- hence, I would LOVE to buy a SMART phone with PHYSICAL MAIN BUTTONS (Home / Back / Search)


RE: Time to wake up
By Capt Caveman on 6/20/2012 2:10:17 PM , Rating: 2
Except, I don't want to take my eyes off the road to navigate several screens to change the climate control temp. With my current vehicle, I know where the knob is and I can just reach over and change it without taking my eyes off the road. I know each notch I dial to the left drops the temp by one degree.


RE: Time to wake up
By Capt Caveman on 6/20/2012 2:12:36 PM , Rating: 2
Except, I don't want to take my eyes off the road to navigate several screens to change the climate control temp. With my current vehicle, I know where the knob is and I can just reach over and change it without taking my eyes off the road. I know each notch I dial to the left drops the temp by one degree.

Now, voice active controls would work in this situation but from some videos from reviewers, some folks have had to yell to get the voice activation to work. Not a pleasant experience.


RE: Time to wake up
By JediJeb on 6/20/2012 6:33:46 PM , Rating: 2
How well does it recognize heavy accents or people with speech problems? Will it make it difficult for foreign born people to operate one of these systems in a different country?


RE: Time to wake up
By Belard on 6/22/2012 9:13:25 AM , Rating: 2
Here is the OTHER problem with VOICE control.

You are LISTENING to music... that is loud.. How are you going to VOICE control your lights, music, A/C without touching the touch screen to MUTE your music every time you want to do something?

I got to borrow my ex-GF RX which has a screen with some physical buttons... but those button function change depending on what mode your are in. Its only a little bit, but I still found it crumble-some.


RE: Time to wake up
By jharper12 on 6/22/2012 9:27:50 AM , Rating: 2
The only epic fail here is you not knowing about the technology driving this innovation. Everything is capacitive touch, so this entertainment system basically works like an iPad. It's the first capacitive touch screen with haptic feedback in a car. Also the user adjustable dash, works like this. Arrow left or right to select one of three adjustable areas, arrow up or down to adjust. It's that easy. Even my 87 year old grandmother can work an iPad. I've been in a pre-production XTS... a lot, it's incredibly easy to work this entertainment system.

Everyone knows how to swipe left or right, pinch to zoom, etc. now. Working a dozen buttons on a steering wheel and knowing what archaic phrase to use with a speech enabled system is what's hard. Using a capacitive touch screen and talking to a live person is easy.

Cadillac is near the top for a reason. Next time try it before you judge.


RE: Time to wake up
By bigboxes on 6/21/2012 9:59:27 AM , Rating: 2
Not a fad. They'll have to make improvements for sure. But fad? No.


RE: Time to wake up
By Samus on 6/20/2012 12:03:26 PM , Rating: 3
I-Drive was a joke compared to MFT, though I agree not having backup 'manual' controls for basic things like climate seems ridiculous. This implementation is worse than a car with climate control and no way to set the blower speed (all climate controls I've seen have an override for manual heating/cooling and blower speed)

But the reason I felt inclined to post, is JD Power & Assc. is the biggest joke of all auto rankings. My evidence lies in how many Chrysler products they've ranked #1 in 'initial quality' when Chrysler has for decades produced the lowest build quality of any first-world auto manufacture on the planet. The gaps between panels, suspension components and geometry, chronic and time-predictable transaxle failures, continuous use of ultra-low quality interior materials, the worst safety recall record of the big three, and to top it off, they've gone bankrupt twice in three decades.


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