How SYNCed Is Your Ride?

REDMOND, Wash. — Oct. 14, 2010 — Driving down the highway on a brisk fall afternoon, being guided by your onboard GPS and listening to your favorite band play on the stereo, you might take the simplicity of what you’re experiencing for granted. With new technology and close attention to detail, a simple drive has evolved into an overall integrated in-car experience — and a major part of making it happen is something automobile manufacturers call the Human Machine Interface, or HMI.

The MyFord Touch user interface from Ford is one example of an HMI that offers integration of various devices to make the in-car experience less complicated and more enjoyable. The HMI masks the complexity of syncing devices such as MP3 players and phones with your vehicle, and provides a simple approach to determining how and where information is displayed, powered by Windows Embedded Automotive.

“Initially the idea behind MyFord touch started when Ford began looking at how to integrate any type of MP3 player or phone seamlessly into a driving experience, while remaining safe,” says Gary Braddock, chief designer at Ford. “We began to look at this type of integration holistically — how drivers use their cars, what they’re looking to get out of the experience, and how we could most effectively provide everyday interactions with the radio, GPS and phone in a more accessible way and at the same time make them less of a distraction while driving.”

It sounds simple, but it isn’t. Even under ideal circumstances, creating an HMI is a massive undertaking, full of logistical complexities and thousands of tiny details to consider.

Ford has always been known as an automotive company, but MyFord Touch and its HMI would take it into the realm of consumer electronics. Engineers involved in dreaming up the concept and design process had to prove that a move in this direction was something that would be well received by consumers.

Braddock explains that there are two ends of the spectrum that new high-tech line of cars, including the Explorer, Edge and MKx, have to appeal to: those interested in driving a high-functioning vehicle and those who might not want all the range of functionality that the newly created system features. The solution according to Braddock is “to incorporate the high tech and efficient aspects of design, like the touch screen and voice control, into a familiar setting and have the driver have the ability to pick and choose which elements they’d like to use and those they’d like to turn off.”

For the MyFord Touch project, Ford engineers contacted an outside consulting firm to help them evaluate driver interactions within the car. They examined and tested every facet of how drivers use a car, focusing on what was most significant to the driver and what information and devices drivers tended to use the most often, such as the tachometer, radio, GPS and phone.

Then engineers looked at where certain information and devices could be integrated to make the overall driver console more efficient. Ford and Bsquare, an engineering services company that works with production-ready software products for the smart device market, used Microsoft’s Windows Embedded Automotive software platform to combine the technologies of a dozen partners to develop the system that makes all those features function as a single integrated solution.

When you get into a Ford vehicle, you’ll immediately see the results of this Herculean labor. The touch-screen control center, located in the center of the dashboard, has a four-corner layout, with phone and audio capabilities on the left and navigation and climate control on the right. It uses a five-way mapping system, similar to most cell phones and MP3 players — up, down, left, right and a center OK button.

Check out the MyFord Touch Screen, which uses Windows Embedded Automotive.

The screen displays any information that a driver might need, such as the speedometer, fuel economy and trip information, and it allows control over the systems through ergonomic steering wheel controls and Bluetooth® with voice control.

To find out more about Ford’s MyFord Touch and HMI systems, visit its website or its media site, which features its latest stories about its integration of high technology into its vehicles.

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