Ford’s new SYNC will be more like your smartphone

Ford has shared that its in-car infotainment system will be getting an overhaul with the newly-revealed SYNC 3, which will add a capacitive touchscreen, an improved smartphone-like interface, enhanced mobile app integration, and support for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay in the near future.

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First debuting back in 2007, SYNC is Ford’s voice-based car entertainment system that enables drivers to play certain media, connect their mobile devices and audio players, and change the temperature, radio station or make calls via verbal commands. Over the next two years, the carmaker introduced a pair of updated versions, which ushered in new applications including 911 Assist, Vehicle Health Report, as well as traffic, directions and information.

By far, the largest hardware change will be the system’s migration from resistive to capacitive touchscreens. According to Ford, SYNC 3 will feature optimized capacitive screens that offer an experience most consumers are familiar with from their tablets and smartphones. With a quicker response to touch, voice and phone-like gestures, future vehicles will boast multi-touch, pinch-to-zoom and swipe capabilities with modernized graphics.

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“We considered all the modern smartphones and mobile operating systems and created something familiar but unique,” explained Parrish Hanna, Ford Global Director of HMI.

In doing so, SYNC 3 aims to reduce on-screen complexity and prioritize the control options drivers utilize most. As the carmaker notes, a bright background and large buttons with high-contrast fonts for daytime use will help reduce screen washout in the sun. Meanwhile, at night, the display will automatically switch to a dark background to aid in eye fatigue reduction and minimal reflections on the windows.

Phone contacts will be searchable via a simple swipe of the finger to scroll through the alphabet. With “One Box Search,” SYNC 3 users can look up points of interest or enter addresses in much the same way they use an Internet search engine.

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“Simplicity has value,” added Hanna. “Reducing the number of things on-screen also makes control easier and is designed to limit the number of times a driver has to glance at the screen.”

In addition, an updated AppLink functionality will provide drivers with better control of their smartphone applications from the car’s main display. It automatically recognizes compatible apps on a user’s smartphone, and enables them to be controlled by voice and steering wheel buttons. Take Google Now, Apple Siri and Pandora, for example, which will be available to those who access the system in the car through Bluetooth.

“Overall, AppLink is faster, more responsive and easier to find your apps,” revealed Julius Marchwicki, Ford Global Product Manager, AppLink. “The overall design of SYNC 3 allows for better integration with smartphones – resulting in a more user-friendly experience.”

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The Sync software will also have the ability to be updated via a home Wi-Fi network, assuming that the home’s network is in range.

According to Ford, the SYNC 3 is expected to be launched in new vehicles next year. Interested in learning more? You can find the entire press release here.

Speaking of in-vehicle systems, Atmel’s maXTouch family — known for its superior performance and rich feature set — is now qualified for automotive applications, ranging from touchscreens and touchpads (supporting 2 inches up to 14 inches in diameter) used in center stack displays to navigation systems and radio human-machine interfaces (HMIs). Looking ahead, here’s a sneak peek at what the future holds for center consoles.

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