Sat. Apr 13th, 2024

Like other vehicle manufacturers, Ford is developing a bespoke in-car operating system for navigation, audio playback, and rudimentary vehicle control. But the fourth-generation Sync Digital Experience will not replace Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. Ford will continue to accomodate the popular phone-mirroring systems, setting itself apart from rivals like GM and Tesla.

The Ford Sync infotainment platform was first introduced in 2007. Previous versions were based on QNX, a Unix-like operating system, but the new foruth-gen Sync is built on Android Automotive. It runs Android applications natively—you don’t need to mirror your phone’s screen, and Sync should provide plenty of streaming or gaming goodness when your car is parked.

However, Ford believes that it offers the best Android Auto and Apple CarPlay experience. It wants to continue offering this experience, especially for Apple fans who may not appreciate the Android-based Sync platform.

In fact, Ford is doubling down on phone-mirroring systems. Fourth-generation Sync will debut in the 2024 Lincoln Nautilus, a car with a 48-inch dashboard screen and a traditional touchscreen radio module. A demonstration of the new Nautilus shows that Android Auto and Apple CarPlay can take over the 48-inch panoramic display—a unique trick that places Sync on the sidelines. For reference, Ford hasn’t said anything about next-gen CarPlay, which is supposed to provide this kind of screen-extension functionality.

It’s a far cry from GM’s game plan. New electric vehicles that are manufactured under GM’s umbrella (Chevy, Cadillac, Hummer, and so on) will rely on a bespoke operating system without Android Auto or Apple CarPlay functionality. This change will eventually trickle down to GM’s gas-powered vehicles. And, of course, ambitious EV companies like Tesla and Rivian have never supported Android Auto or CarPlay.

Now’s a good time to mention safety and customer satisfaction. Drivers may be distracted by large screens, and automakers are routinely criticized for placing basic functionality (particularly A/C and wiper controls) behind touchscreens. Ford promises that the fourth-gen Sync system is safe and intuitive. But the first vehicle to use fourth-gen Sync—the 2024 Lincoln Nautilus—forces drivers to dip into a touchscreen for climate control and air vent adjustment.

High-end vehicles may continue down this route. If you want something more modest, you should buy a cheaper vehicle, or simply add a touchscreen infotainment center to an older car.

Source: Ford via The Verge

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By John P.

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