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Ford radically reinterprets cabin tech interface

Ford launches its MyFord system and new version of Sync at the 2010 CES.

Ford MyFord 3D map
Ford gives its maps a much-needed update in the MyFord system, and stores it on SD Card. Ford

LAS VEGAS - Ford built up a good cabin tech lead amongst its competitors when it adopted Sync and Sirius Travel Link in 2008, and we didn't think the company could come up with something new for CES 2010. But boy, were we wrong. Ford radically redesigned its cabin tech interface while at the same time adding new features and completely revamping its navigation systems, branding the whole shebang as MyFord.

Ford vehicles equipped with MyFord will get two 4.2-inch color LCDs, one mounted in the instrument cluster and one in the center of the dashboard. The instrument cluster display shows vehicle information such as engine speed, temperature, and trip data, and the one in the dashboard shows audio, phone, and navigation information.

This system can be upgraded to MyFord Touch, which puts the two 4.2-inch LCDs on either side of the speedometer and adds an 8-inch touch-screen LCD to the center of the dashboard.

The Ford Fusion Hybrid served as a test-bed for this new interface, as it has similar LCDs in the instrument cluster, although they don't show nearly as much information. What both allow is driver customization, letting you choose to view the tachometer as an analog gauge or as a simple bar graph, for example.

Ford Sync music library screen
Ford's old interface was legible, but ugly. Corinne Schulze/CNET

In designing the new interface, Ford aimed to flatten the menu structure, making it safer for drivers to choose music or place phone calls without having to dig through multiple screens. MyFord also uses a color scheme so the driver can easily see which function is on display, with orange for the phone, green for navigation, red for music, and blue for climate control. These four major menu areas also get a touch-screen button at each corner of the 8-inch LCD, letting driver or passenger quickly access each one.

Another big change involves switching map storage from hard drive to SD card. Ford had been an early adopter of onboard hard drives, which allowed quicker map access for the navigation system than DVDs could. But moving from hard drive to SD card, with a navigation application and maps from Telenav, will be cheaper to manufacture, make it easier for an owner to update the maps, and be more durable, as a hard drive is more likely to fail in an automotive environment than an SD card.

New MyFord interface
The graphic design in the new interface is a great improvement. Ford

The new system will still integrate Sirius Travel Link information, including weather, gas prices, and movie listings with the maps. Traffic information will also be provided through the Sync Traffic, Directions, and Information service.

Even if this onboard navigation system isn't optioned, every Ford car will still come with navigation through the existing Sync Traffic, Directions, and Information service, with turn-by-turn guidance shown on the center, 4.2-inch LCD.

New audio features include HD radio with song tagging. If the driver likes a particular song that's playing, she can press the tag button, which saves the artist and song title so it can be used to search for further information and distributors on the Internet.

More impressively, Ford is offering a unified music library, letting users browse the music from multiple onboard audio sources. This unification is much more convenient than current systems, which require users to switch to different audio sources to select music from each one.

Ford has already announced that the new version of Sync will work as a mobile Wi-Fi hot spot when a cellular modem is plugged into the car's USB slot. Taking it a step further, Ford will include a Web browser that displays on the MyFord Touch 8-inch LCD.

Ford company brands Mercury and Lincoln will get their own versions of the system, dubbed MyMercury and MyLincoln.