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Ford to Offer In-Vehicle Voice Control of Select iPhone Apps

Discussion in 'iOS Blog Discussion' started by MacRumors, Dec 22, 2010.

  1. macrumors bot




    Ford today announced that early next year it will debut its SYNC AppLink voice control integration for select iPhone applications, allowing users to easily control their devices without needing to take their hands off the wheel or eyes off the road. Launching today for 2011 Ford Fiesta owners using BlackBerry and Android devices, iPhone compatibility is set for an early 2011 launch. Additional new car models will also be gaining compatibility in the coming months.
    The only iPhone applications currently announced as preparing for AppLink capability early next year are Pandora Radio and Stitcher Radio, although Ford has promised that more applications are coming soon.

    Article Link: Ford to Offer In-Vehicle Voice Control of Select iPhone Apps
  2. macrumors 65816


    Oh the irony. SYNC is by Microsoft.

    Ford's SYNC runs on the Microsoft Windows Embedded Automotive operating system. Bill Gates and the chairman of Ford announced it back in 2007. Maybe Bill was expecting Windows Mobile, Danger, and KIN to work with it...
  3. macrumors newbie

    I wonder if this will be available as an upgrade for existing SYNC users/systems? I just ordered a 2011 van with SYNC, and it would be great if this would work with just a software upgrade. Probably wishful thinking.

  4. macrumors regular

    But who would buy a ford unless you are buying a truck?
  5. macrumors regular

    The 12 Ford Fiesta owners rejoice...
  6. macrumors 68000


    I have Sync in my 2009 and would love to have these new features but, Ford and Microsoft do not like to push out updates to older models. I don't know about anybody else but I cant buy a new car for a software update, a car mount and bluetooth work good enough for me.
  7. macrumors newbie


    They must be beside themselves.
  8. macrumors 65816


    Re: firmware updates

    Substitute Motorola for Ford and Google for Microsoft and you've summed up the situation for Android handset user. LOL.
  9. macrumors 65816


    90% of U.S.-sold cars have iPod connectivity

    Ford is far from being the only automaker to offer iPod connectivity. Apple's site claims "Over 90 percent of new cars sold in the United States have an option for iPod connectivity."

    The default automaker on the page is Mercedes, but there are many. Here's
    Apple's iPod car integration page.

    Only a matter of time before the vast majority have iPhone integration as well. And maybe everyone can throw in iPad integration while they're at it.
  10. macrumors member


    I didn't think there was anything new in this announcement, but I could be wrong. Ford was at Mobile Monday Detroit a few months ago and showed off a couple vehicles with the new stuff, a 2011 Edge with MyFordTouch (touch screen in center console and small video displays in the dash operated by D-pads on the steering wheel) and a 2011 Fiesta with MyFordTouch and AppLink. The Fiesta was running the Pandora app from some kind of mobile device (don't remember if it was an iPhone or a Zune or something else). The Fiesta will be the first with AppLink, although other 2011 models with MyFordTouch may be firmware upgradeable later.

    You can get on the waiting list for the SDK here: https://secure.syncmyride.com/Own/Modules/Developer/Subscribe.aspx. The developers said that conceptually, AppLink works like an X Window Server: the client app on the device issues commands to MyFordTouch, telling it what to draw on the display or on the dash. It runs over Bluetooth for most devices, but uses the dock cable for iOS (they didn't say why, but I've heard that Apple's External Accessosry / Works With iPhone program is grievously restrictive, so maybe that has something to do with it).

    --Chris (invalidname)
  11. macrumors 6502a

    Great. You can use your apps via an ugly, low-res monochrome screen. I really don't know why none of these companies are using the iPhone or iPad as the car screen.

    Dock it into the console and it's does its climate/entertainment/etc controls. Stop the car, undock it and take it with you. Feature updates via App Store, load music, etc on via iTunes sync as normal.

    Replace an entire embedded operating system? There's (should be) an app for that.
  12. afd
    macrumors 6502a

    Wirelessly posted (Mozilla/5.0 (iPhone; U; CPU iPhone OS 4_2_1 like Mac OS X; en-us) AppleWebKit/533.17.9 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/5.0.2 Mobile/8C148 Safari/6533.18.5)

    My wife has an '09 fiesta display looks the same as one in the picture. I've always looked small cars, so I prefer it to my focus. iPhone integration isn't the best though- the connection lead is too short and ridgid, there is nowhere to put the phone, and if you move it the wrong way the cable comes out, there is no search facility for ipod so you have to scroll for ages to find the right track, worst though is you can't choose a permanent default for audio source, if Bluetooth is on it always goes back to Bluetooth, which means a couple of minutes of mucking about at the start of each journey. Very annoying if my wife gives me a lift and the last thing I was listening to was an audiobook, the iPhone starts sending to Bluetooth, even though all we hear is a cd or the radio. Then I go to listen to the book later and wonder why I've missed a few chapters.
  13. macrumors member


    I think you're misunderstanding or misrepresenting the point of the in-car information technologies. The first priority of these systems is safety: they're focused on performing communication and entertainment in a way that does not distract the driver. Keep in mind that the first version of Ford's system, Microsoft SYNC, was entirely voice-controlled.

    An iPhone is a great UI in your hand, but it's not so hot in a car -- the precision needed for touches is much finer than the coarse gestures needed to operate the car, and there's a mental context shift between the two that is distracting, and therefore dangerous. The idea of AppLink is to adapt the functionality of your apps to the UI provided by the car, one that is specifically optimized for use while driving.

    I've developed an app for finding gas, food, and lodging at exits while you're driving on US limited-access freeways (here's your link). I started work on this after my kids demanded Taco Bell when we were on an unfamiliar highway and I foolishly tried to use the built-in Maps app. Steering and pinch-zooming don't mix, and I'll never do something so foolish again.

    So I built my app to be highly "glanceable", to limit its display to what you could read with a 1 or 2 second glance, and to only require a single thumb to operate. I can use this while holding the phone in my right hand with my thumb and index finger, using the other three fingers to hold the wheel. So it's OK for that, though it's still a little distracting to hold the phone while driving at all -- just the same it's safer to talk on a hands-free headset than to hold the phone while you drive. I've had poor sales and pretty bad reviews compared to similar "find stuff at exit" apps, but those apps employ a much more complex GUI, using pinch-zoomable maps for example. How do they get around the distraction and safety problem? One of them does so by presenting an end-user license agreement that specifically prohibits its use while driving… which to me seems unenforceable, as it's the whole point of this kind of app.

    So I respect what Ford is trying to do by building a UI that is comprehensive and yet still safe to use while driving. That the Fiesta's MyFordTouch screen is monochrome shouldn't be that surprising, since the Fiesta is an entry-level car. The displays on the Edge are much nicer (demo here).

    How serious is the safety stuff? One of my CocoaHeads friends in the Detroit area used to work with Sun on getting JavaME into cars. As of just a few years ago, the legal department at Ford told their group "as soon as you have arbitrary code running in this vehicle, it can never be driven again." So their demo car had to be trucked to events, as even Ford employees were not allowed to drive it, such was the fear of liability ("every time a bumper dings, a lawyer's telephone rings"). That to me answered the question of why Ford isn't putting out an SDK for apps that run on the onboard computers: they could never review third-party apps to a sufficient degree to satisfy the lawyers.

    I should also mention that AppLink apparently lets developers use the SYNC voice stuff too, by sending it text to speak or prompts to listen for. If I ever get the SDK, I'm sorely tempted to abandon the screen UI altogether and do a SYNC-only version of my app that would call out the upcoming exits over the speaker and let you select them with speech commands. I had originally hoped to add this through an iOS speech API, but there isn't one, and working with the vehicle's built in speaker and mic is less fussy (and therefore safer) than dicking around with a headset or holding the phone anyways.
  14. macrumors G5


    Ever since iOS 4.0, any iOS audio app can be controlled by any dock-connected remote controls. For instance my iTrip AutoPilot has play/pause/skip controls mounted on the lighter charger, and they used to only control iPod music, but now they control Pandora too. (Just like the recent-app-switcher lets you control audio apps without launching them.)

    Ford’s going farther than just that, but something similar is possible now with various in-car solutions (some very cheap) and it’s really nice! I listen to almost nothing but Pandora while driving, and I never have to touch the screen. (And Navigon speaks directions through it all, complete with ducking.)
  15. batchtaster, Dec 25, 2010
    Last edited: Dec 25, 2010

    macrumors 6502a

    Not at all.

    I never said anything about using the existing iPhone/iPad/iOS UI. I'm talking about custom UI, like a big chunk of the iOS apps already out there, written by the car companies or a developer working on their behalf. Ford can make their UI as ugly as they want, as ugly as the existing SYNC UI already is. But instead of limiting/tethering it to the on-board hardware, write it as an iOS app instead and run it off the iPhone, or more likely the iPad, as the screen. Integrate other vehicular hardware (eg: speakers, stereo, speedo, everything else) via the Dock connector. Simple.

    These things are not that magical or complex. It's simply a computer, on which the SYNC software runs. It's connected to a display in the dash. There is a Bluetooth chipset for phones, a connection to a USB port for an MP3 player or other USB device, and links to the vehicular management systems, eg: aircon. Draw a circle around the computer, the software and the display, and replace the bits inside that circle with an iPad and a custom iPad app with a UI as ugly, proprietary and Ford-ized as you like. Done.
  16. macrumors newbie

    Save your money and get a stereo with Pandora connectivity built in. Buying a car just for this would be like buying a boat because it has a nice towel warmer. I drive an older but reliable car with no debt, and just got an Alpine IDA-X305S for Pandora interaction, but there are many others. There's far more important things to do with your money, if you just want this. Oh, and it has an actual color screen, not something from your alarm clock in the 90s.

    Yes, I've driven a car with Sync (a nice 265HP Fusion rental), and besides my bias against Ford it was good but not amazing. The phone features were the best, but with my iPhone it kept losing all the contacts (not sure whose fault that was, but I suspect Ford). And yes, the "screen" was that bad.
  17. macrumors 6502

    You do know Ford tops toyota and honda right.. I would buy one but I have enough cars
  18. macrumors 6502


    I hope that they offer it as a software upgrade for existing vehicles. I would love to be able to control Pandora from my car head unit. I don't see why that wouldn't be possible. I don't think additional hardware is required to make that happen.
  19. macrumors 6502a

    Whoa, talk about an out of date view point. Have you paid attention to the automotive industry at all in the past 5 years? Maybe there's a reason Ford's stock price has increased over 10-fold in the past two years... Consumer Reports and JD Power quality surveys regularly put Ford cars on par with the best from Japan these days. I can't stand all the self-proclaimed experts out there who dish out their own brand of car-buying advice without having done any research themselves, other than what they've heard from other similar experts, all having a good laugh at a "Fix Or Repair Daily" joke and patting themselves on the back. Get with the times and pick up a copy of Motor Trend or Consumer Reports or something! Better yet, just save yourself some time and skim over Autoblog.com a couple times a week!
  20. macrumors newbie

    Me and many other true Americans who knows are the best cars and also contribute in our economy! Well let's not compare it to crapy toyotas!
  21. macrumors 6502a

    It seems even the masses are ahead of you on this one:

  22. rtdunham, Jan 5, 2011
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2011

    macrumors 6502a

    I get that the carmakers don't do it because they'd make nothing, instead of good profits on factory installed GPS & bluetooth units. What I don't understand is what's preventing after-market adoptions...

    I wish I understood the tech better. What's to stop sake if a simple but stylish mounting device fitted for different dashes, for, say, the iPad (or, agreed, the iPhone): You have up to a 9" GPS, bluetooth phone, and voice control over some apps; it can be removed and taken with you, moved from car to car, updated/replaced with nothing more than, at most, the cost of a new mount. You could even watch live radar video of the area you're driving into.

    How thoroughly does apple's stuff facilitate these uses? How close do they come to (or exceed) what Ford's announcing?

    edit: nice explanation, invalidname. I'll take a look at your app.
    edit 2: just looked at it. looks nice, bought it, looking forward to using it on road trip next week. thanks!
  23. macrumors member

    You do realize that most foreign cars are manufactured here in the US now right? And those are employees by mostly Americans. Thus, they too contribute to the economy? And I tend to think of myself as a true American but don't feel obligated to buy something inferior just because it was made in the US. With that said, I do own and Explorer and and F150.
  24. macrumors newbie

    First of all. Americans cars are not inferior. The last time I check Toyota and honda had most (Japanese cars) 8 of the 10 worst recall! Ford had none! Dodge had none mayor recall. Gm had one!

    Second of all. Japanese cars produced in USA are manufactured only. Most of the parts are imported (about 90%). GM only imports about 23%. So it produces 77%.
    Third of all. All the engineering is made overseas! For the Japanese!
    Remember most is perception that they have better engineering. Check all the stuff GM has invented or has installed first (and I do not have one GM yet). obviously if you copy (photograph or backward engineered probably less problems will occur. That's why anti locks , independent suspension, power everything was first on German and Americans car. Lately they have being installing and that's why they now have problems too!
  25. macrumors member

    Wirelessly posted (Mozilla/5.0 (iPhone; U; CPU iPhone OS 3_1_3 like Mac OS X; en-us) AppleWebKit/528.18 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/4.0 Mobile/7E18 Safari/528.16)

    Its amazing in this time that all software on a car isnt upgradeable. As much as I like the iphone, I could put a full color capacitive AND transflective touch screen with a speedy DIN1 PC in my car for far less than what the average cost is for navigation systems. Its a ridiculous divide that will backfire on the car industry as soon as the population realizes how much they are being ripped off.

    In reply to this moronic fight over whether america or japan is the better manufacturer in cars (this is a global economy people, get with the times), I would point out the major GM recall that took place just recently; over 26k vehicles. It was due to something about the possibility of the rear axles locking up. No manufacturer is perfect and while the population may not realize the existence of globalization, american companies do. So all this banter about who is better for our economy is pretty shortsighted.

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