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MyFord Blow and Sync assuming abruptness “scheduled arrangement maintenance.”

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Sean Gallagher

According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 1.3 actor bodies die every year as the aftereffect of car crashes—and disciplinarian aberration actuality a rapidly growing agency in those crashes. In a abstraction arise aftermost week, the CDC activate that about a third of drivers in the US argument while driving. Added than two-thirds accept to talking on their corpuscle phones while driving.

What the abstraction didn’t acknowledge is how abounding bodies are apprenticed to aberration by the in-car technology that’s declared to, in theory, abate disciplinarian distraction. It didn’t actuate how abounding accidents accept been acquired by addition accepting to reboot their in-car ball arrangement at a stop ablaze by shutting off the agent and aperture their car door—the MyFord Blow agnate of a adamantine reboot.

In aboriginal February, I bought a 2013 Ford Escape able with MyFord Touch.  In abounding ways, the system, which was developed accordingly by Ford and Microsoft, is a driver’s best friend. But best accompany can be appropriate sometimes, and they occasionally drive you nuts—especially aback they altercate with your added best accompany (like your acute phone). These accompany occasionally stop talking to anniversary other, and one ability alike arrest calls to your mom because they’ve absitively it’s time to accomplish “routine maintenance.”

Ford and GM accept been authoritative a big accord about the approaching of the “connected car” lately, and the two companies are aggravating to accompany added and added smartphone functionality to the dashboards of their cartage in adjustment to advice accumulate the always-on bearing tethered to the Internet. The botheration is that acute phones (and their apps) and cars accept hardly altered activity cycles. There’s no way the auto makers can anytime t up with acute phones if they accumulate aggravating to focus aggregate about their own brands and technology.

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It would help, at least, if they were a little beneath kludge-like. (I mean, we were declared to accept aerial cars by now—at atomic according to Aback to the Future…)

Sure, the “connected car” has become a focus for both Ford and GM recently. As I’ve written, GM is added API-enabling its OnStar communications belvedere to acquiesce Web and buzz apps to collaborate with OnStar-equipped vehicles. Ford has sponsored OpenXC, an open-source appliance programming interface that curtains into vehicles’ Controller Area Network (CAN) through the On-Board Diagnostics-II (OBD-II) port. And that anchorage is accepted on all cars awash in the US aback 1996 acknowledgment to EPA emissions testing requirements. Both Ford and GM alike afresh arise developer programs to accompany “apps” to their in-vehicle ball systems (Ford’s Sync AppLink and GM’s MyLink and IntelliLink).

But there has been little allowance for Mr. Fusion appearance car hacking in the agendas of the big auto makers—the apps still charge to run aural the arch of GM’s and Ford’s called platforms.  We’re not alike aing to accepting Kit the Wonder Car yet, unless you’re a Google employee. Or maybe you calculation the sharp-toned changeable articulation of MyFord Touch’s hands-free command arrangement as amusing banter. (It’s account acquainted that the responses from MyFord Blow to articulation commands are sometimes accidentally witty. For instance: in acknowledgment to blame as I approved to cross the articulation command timberline to get my iPod Nano to play, the arrangement acquainted to Sirius XM’s “The Spa” accessible listening/ambient channel.)

MyFord Blow is the additional bearing of Ford’s Sync platform. And as the name hints, its best notable affection is a touchscreen, which replaces the arrangement of ons that fabricated up the animate interface of the first-gen Sync platform.

But while it’s somewhat added automatic than its predecessor, the MyFord Blow interface is not absolutely what one would alarm the apotheosis of blow usability. It’s additionally not article any disciplinarian should blend with while in motion.

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The home awning for MyFord Blow Sync. Want a feature? Aloof blow the argument in the corner…while you’re parked. My iPhone is still actuality indexed here, like it consistently is.

The Media screen, from which we baddest our antecedent of entertainment. There are three screens anniversary of presets for AM, FM, and Sirius XM. Navigating presets while active could end badly—stick to the articulation commands and the council caster ons.

Sean Gallagher

To accumulate the disciplinarian from absorption on touchscreen presses, and potentially demography out a row of pedestrians in the process, the Sync system’s interface additionally includes a set of council caster ons advised to acceleration through the interface afterwards demography calmly off the wheel. Drivers can additionally adjure the articulation acceptance interface. And the aforementioned arrangement is acclimated to acquaintance Sync “services,” the articulation acknowledgment buzz account that is Ford’s acknowledgment to OnStar.

The Sync council caster on cluster, with media aeronautics on the gamepad-like cluster; phone, articulation commands, and a cruise aback to the home awning on the multidirectional rocker below.

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Sean Gallagher

While Sync tethers to phones over Bluetooth, the Escape offers two USB ports for tethering media devices. Plug a accordant USB broadband modem into one of them, and you can about-face the car into a Wi-FI hotspot. There’s additionally an SD agenda slot; in the adaptation of MyFord Blow able with a aeronautics system, this is for loading maps as able-bodied as music.

The articulation commands accustomed by Sync are bound to a timberline of choices based on specific ball or account functions. Aback you misspeak, Sync’s tech-matron articulation gives you a continued address on how you should byword your request, again it offers a card of accessible commands by action additionally displayed on the blow screen.

That’s not to say that Ford’s interfaces are impossible. Aural about three account of actuality handed the keys, and while the salesman was still attractive my acting tags, I had ample out the essentials of tethering my buzz via Bluetooth and was able-bodied on the way to Sync mastery. The problems would activate afterwards aback I tethered my iPhone 4S, and again my iPod Nano, to the arrangement through its USB ports.

With the iPhone, the affair angry out to be artlessly a amount of bandwidth. Best of my driving, acknowledgment to my burghal lifestyle, is for trips beneath than 20 account long. My morning drive consists of active bristles afar roundtrip to my daughter’s academy and back. So Sync, it seemed, was never commutual its indexing of the phone’s song contents. Accepting iTunes Match angry on didn’t advice matters, but I had the aforementioned botheration with my Nano already I started application it as my absence in-car music device.

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Sometimes, Sync would never admit the accessory acquainted into the USB, or it would accept absent-mindedness about the capacity of the music accessory afterwards a buzz call. If I accessible the buzz from USB and got out of the car, any indexing in advance would be forgotten. And all of this came afterwards installing a software account to accomplish abiding my iTunes library was appropriately configured for Sync.

No USB accessory found—my iPod and Sync are no best on speaking terms.

Sean Gallagher

Then, in aboriginal March, the crashes began. I was on the buzz aback Sync absitively this was the ideal time to reboot, catastrophe my hands-free call. Again it wouldn’t admit the buzz at all until I did the simulated-end-of-trip by putting the Escape in esplanade at a red light, axis off the ignition, and aperture the aperture to shut bottomward the system.

After that, the Sync “performing accepted maintenance” awning would arise at the atomic acceptable moments. It was bright that whatever it was aggravating to do, I was not giving it abundant affection time with my buzz tethered for the arrangement to complete what it was doing. So I absitively it was time to analysis for an update.

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The Sync website provides a way to download updates to a USB beam drive for installation. The botheration is that it requires a Java plugin or an ActiveX to run. I’ve been appealing active about removing the Java plugin from all my browsers for aegis affidavit Ars readers may be acquainted of. And as an aboriginal adopter, I apparent Internet Explorer 9 did not abide Ford’s ActiveX control.

The download, already I got it installed, was two CAB files accretion no added than 90 kilobytes. Yes, you apprehend that right—kilobytes. I looked at my pseudo-4G iPhone 4S.  I looked at the files on the stick that it had taken me bisected an hour of reconfiguration to get installed. And I befuddled my head.

Installing the 28-kilobyte amend CAB that Sync had been aggravating to install for two weeks over the air.

Sean Gallagher

In an era area I beck music from the billow to my buzz and download abounding smartphone or book operating arrangement upgrades in the amount of my morning commute, I had to download 90k of abstracts to a FAT-formatted USB stick to install an amend appropriately (which afterward, the Sync armpit accepted I had appropriately installed, acknowledgment to a bulletin beatific through my buzz over its Bluetooth connection). I can alone brainstorm what it would booty to advance the abounding amend of the MyFord Blow adaptation of Sync over my Bluetooth affiliation aback Ford eventually issues an amend to accomplish it accordant with the AppLink API platform.

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This ability accept been faster if I had  angry on Wi-Fi administration on my iPhone. But that array of gets to the affection of the botheration with the access taken by Ford and GM—the appearance they are aggravating to accompany to the dashboard are already in best smartphones, and the in-car systems will aloof abide to abatement abaft what you can get out of applications on iOS, Android, or alike BlackBerry and Windows Phone. The actuality that you can cream the Web on MyFord Blow aback anchored and application a USB keyboard speaks to a mindset about what a affiliated agent should be—a mindset that is about a decade old.

GM has accustomed this, array of, in its move to accommodate into iPhones’ Siri on one archetypal of an electric car. Ford has an befalling with the AppLink belvedere to get out of the way of software developers and car owners, but it could go abundant added if the aggregation aloof focused on accouterment the one affair that it won’t be consistently outpaced in by the customer electronics industry: the car itself as a platform.

As it is appropriate now, there are no “apps” I can download to MyFord Blow and Sync added than the software updates they issue. And in abounding ways, that’s fine. I use my iPhone for best of the app functions as it is—I use MotionX GPS Drive for navigation, for example, and the turn-by-turn admonition get played over the car’s speakers aloof as they would if I had autonomous for Sync navigation. I accept no admiration to use the 8-inch awning and a USB wireless modem to analysis e-mail aback anchored aback I can do it on my buzz or a book aloof as easily.

But Ford has the clue of a acceptable abstraction with OpenXC. It could booty that artlessness one added footfall and accessible the amplitude active by Sync now to developers who will bigger accommodate the adaptable platforms bodies already use. Again maybe, I won’t accept to ask for the one on not currently on the council wheel: a CTRL-ALT-DELETE admixture key.

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