Ford’s Sync infotainment losing ground to competition

Mar 29, 2011

Four years ago, the Ford Sync infotainment system was the innovative technology that drove this automaker’s economic recovery, but competitors are beginning to catch up to – and overtake – Ford’s groundbreaking technology, according to Edmunds’ InsideLine.com.

In 2007, Ford set a new technology standard with Sync by offering drivers voice-activated access to their iPods and phone contacts. The in-dash connectivity was an immediate hit, but stinging reviews of the next generation Sync as well as the new MyFord Touch and MyLincoln Touch systems have opened the doors for new systems to build reputations in the automotive market.

“Ford Sync set a standard for infotainment technology, but now the competition is poised to push that technology to new levels,” said Doug Newcomb, senior technology editor at Edmunds.com. “At the same time, though, manufacturers will have to balance a useful, innovative and entertaining experience with the inevitable distracted driving issues that are sure to arise.”

With Microsoft’s two-year exclusivity agreement with Ford now expired, Kia paired up with the software company to develop a similar integration system, the Uvo. Kia, however, has held the technology back while waiting to see how driver-distraction issues evolve.

Similarly, Toyota has planned to introduce its Entune infotainment system this spring; it provides in-dash support and compatibility with an increasing variety of smartphone apps. The system also allows for “over-the-air” software updates made possible by Toyota’s OnStar-style Safety Connect system.

German automakers, meanwhile, have signed on to support a smartphone integration standard from Nokia called Terminal Mode, which could make integration drastically easier and standardized. Automakers like BMW are also working directly with smartphone makers, including Apple and BlackBerry, to integrate specific functions of smartphones into their car’s in-dash electronics.