Ford and Lincoln get connected with Apple's Siri
After years of negative customer reviews of its in-car voice-recognition technology, Ford Motor Co. may solve some of its lingering issues by partnering with Automatic Labs.
Soon, drivers will be able to ask Apple’s Siri system about the weather and turn on their home thermostat from the wheel of their Ford or Lincoln, the automaker said Tuesday.
Automatic Labs, which created a plug-in car knowledge gadget, and Ford said they paired up to make the driving experience smarter and safer for Ford and Lincoln owners. Automatic Labs’ small device plugs into a port below the steering wheel and connects drivers’ iPhones with their vehicles’ onboard computer.
Ford and Lincoln vehicles already can make calls, play music and get directions with the SYNC AppLink, but now drivers won’t need to reach down to grab their iPhones for other tasks because they will be able to use Apple’s Siri by pushing the press-to-talk button on the steering wheel, the statement said.
It could be welcome news to some Ford customers.
Consumer Reports ranked Ford and Lincoln brands No. 26 and 27 out of 28 brands in the magazine’s annual reliability survey in 2013. Complaints about the usability of the MyFord Touch and MyLincoln Touch audio, entertainment and navigation systems were partly to blame for the poor ratings. In 2012, the Ford brand took 27th out of 28 brands, down from a 10th place ranking a year earlier. Lincoln landed at No. 26 from 14 a year earlier. Consumer Reports said one of the reasons Ford suffered was problematic technology.
A company spokesperson said the new Automatic Labs technology, which is available in models equipped with SYNC, is not a direct response to the MyFord Touch and MyLincoln Touch problems. Conversation about the partnership started at the International CES in January, and Ford CEO Mark Fields visited Automatic Labs in February to discuss the next steps.
“We want to offer our customers choices while also enabling them to get the best value out of their vehicles,” said Jim Buczkowski, Ford’s director of electrical and electronic systems. “By working with Automatic, we are able to provide current and future SYNC owners with several complementary new features.”
“Plug-in devices are gaining popularity with certain consumers and this is a way for Ford to quickly learn the experiences most valuable to these consumers,” Buczkowski said.
He added: “Ford believes that voice control is important to a safer and smarter mobility experience. This enables us to provide additional voice-controlled features like Siri for iPhone users -- Ford drivers can now access Siri while keeping hands on the wheel and eyes on the road.”
Automatic Labs also links the push-to-talk button with the “Internet of Things,” which comes with access to the If This Then That (IFTTT) Web service, the statement said. IFTTT automates actions based on chosen or created “recipes.” Recipes range from tracking driving expenses by logging trip details in a Google Doc to turning house lights on when drivers park in the area.
The connectivity list will grow with additional features in upcoming months, but the first version of the $99.95 app will be compatible only with iOS 8, a spokesperson said. The Ford-Automatic Labs integration will be available to customers after the iPhone iOS 8 update. Automatic Labs has been sold in Apple and Best Buy stores since last year, but this is the company’s first partnership with an automaker, the statement said. The update to Automatic Labs’ device is only compatible with Ford vehicles equipped with either SYNC or MyFord Touch, Buczkowski said.
Ford vehicles that have SYNC -- the 2011-15 Ford Explorer, 2013-15 Ford Flex, 2011-14 Ford F-150, 2011-15 Ford F-Series Super Duty and 2013-15 Ford Taurus -- will have access to Automatic Labs’ technology. It will also be available for the 2013-15 Lincoln MKS, 2013-15 Lincoln MKT, 2011-14 Lincoln MKX and 2015 Lincoln Navigator, the statement said.
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