Ford Motor Co (Dearborn, Mich.) will expand the use of its on-board smartphone applications for the 2012 model year, the automaker said last Tuesday at Forward with Ford, a safety and technology show.
Mark Fields, president of Ford Operations in North and South America, said a recent study showed that smartphones will eventually overtake feature phones in the United States, and that two-thirds of smartphone users want to use them in their vehicles.
"Mobile app growth is literally skyrocketing," said Fields. "This is a trend that we cannot ignore, especially as a Nationwide Insurance study shows that one in four Americans who download apps admits to using them while driving."
According to Ford, its Sync communications and entertainment system will be able to connect with smartphones on models including the Fusion sedan, F-150 pickup trucks, and the Expedition SUV.
Douglas VanDagens, director of connected services, said the Sync application to link smartphones will eventually be a factory option on all Ford and Lincoln vehicles.
Early this year Consumer Reports magazine did not give a "recommended" rating to SUVs Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX because of the complexity of the audio and interior control systems: MyFord Touch and the MyLincoln Touch systems.
"Customers told us early on that there were some issues with MyFord Touch," said Fields. Fields went on to say that Ford has made software changes and offered customers training at Ford dealers when they purchase a car equipped with the systems.
Dave Champion, director of the auto test center for Consumer Reports, said that some of the controls below the touch screen in Lincoln vehicles tested by Consumer Reports were spaced so that the driver could easily touch a button not intended.
"We think that any control in the car should be handled easily within two seconds, or it increases the risk of a crash," said Champion, citing research done by Virginia Tech.
Ford also said on Tuesday that it is working with Nuance Communications (Burlington, Mass.) to ease the use of voice-control systems in Ford and Lincoln vehicles. The first project is one that will expand the vocabulary of commands as well as decipher the intent of the driver if he or she does not use commands such as navigation inquiries the Sync system now recognizes.
(Editing by Steve Orlofsky)