After announcing in December that it was dropping Microsoft’s platform for Blackberry’s QNX operating system on its infotainment systems, Ford today announced that the first of the new systems will launch in 2016.
Ford said its new Sync 3 communication and entertainment system will first be rolled out in the 2016 Escape and Fiesta.
The new Escape SUV and the compact Fiesta hatchback will go on sale this summer, and Sync 3 will migrate to all Ford vehicles in North America by the end of 2016.
The new system, which includes all new hardware and software, will deliver faster performance, conversational voice recognition, an intuitive smartphone-like touchscreen and an easier-to-understand graphical interface, Ford said.
Mosaic-shaped icons dominate the interface, with a quick-access feature tray at the bottom for a simpler user experience.
The new entertainment / communications system will also offer smartphone-like controls and gestures, including pinch-to-zoom and swipe, along with crisp, more modern graphics.
For example, phone contacts can be viewed by simply swiping your finger to scroll through the alphabet. With One Box Search, users can search for points of interest or enter addresses the same way they use an internet search engine.
Along with a simpler command structure, the new system will also reduce the number of steps required to perform commands, such as selecting music, making a call, or searching for a destination.
Sync3 also includes seamless AppLink integration, Siri Eyes-Free capability, software updates over Wi-Fi, and enhanced, subscription-free 911 support.
The owner’s Bluetooth phone is used to dial 911 in the event of a major accident – alerting first responders with the location of the vehicle. With Sync 3, the car relays additional information – including whether the airbags are deploying, whether the crash is frontal, side, rear, or rollover, and the number of seat belts detected while in use – to assist emergency call takers to send the appropriate resources to the scene.
Why Ford Dumped Windows
More than 12 million Sync-equipped vehicles on the road around the world use the Windows Embedded Automotive operating system, which Ford has been using since 2007.
While Ford declined to talk about why it switched from Windows, negative feedback from consumers and industry likely played a big role, analysts said.
For example, Ford’s Sync IVI system was never recommended by Consumer reports magazine.
By turning to the 25-year-old QNX platform, Ford is getting a full community of developers to support and update its software. QNX also supports the ubiquitous HTML5 markup language and other native UI tool sets.
Prior to being purchased by Blackberry in 2010, QNX Software Systems was owned by audio equipment and infotainment company Harman International. It has been used in over 200 different car models, so it has been well controlled.
Other new features in Sync 3 include a more seamless integration of AppLink, which allows BlackBerry, iPhone and Android devices to run approved apps using the buttons on the steering wheel, the radio or the car’s voice commands. .
The new telematics system also enables Siri voice activation capability for the Apple iPhone. Drivers can request Siri’s help by holding down Sync’s Push to Talk steering wheel button, just like they would on an iPhone to initiate a Siri session.
Software updates will also be available via Wi-Fi (also called over the air). Once a vehicle is configured with credentials for a home Wi-Fi network accessible in a customer’s driveway or garage, it can automatically download updates.
AppLink allows users to connect their smartphone to their vehicle and control compatible apps using voice commands or buttons on the vehicle display screen.
AppLink automatically discovers smartphone apps including Spotify, Pandora, Glympse, NPR One, and iHeart Auto and displays unique graphics and branding for each app. Music and news apps are automatically displayed along with other media sources like AM / FM or SiriusXM.
“Customers keep telling us they want this technology, and they want it to be fast and easy to use – like a smartphone. Sync 3 meets that demand,” said Mark LaNeve, vice president of marketing, of sales and service in the United States at Ford. in a report.
Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.