Ford is announcing today its new multi-function control system dubbed MyFord, which will be a high-tech iDrive-like system for everyone, but with more voice commands and steering wheel multi-function buttons that are closer to what Mercedes-Benz does than BMW.
The MyFord system will add a new touch-sensitive LED colour screen (on MyFord Touch models), an SD card slot for easier upgrading and customization, an additional USB slot (now two) so you can bring music and photo sticks along, new WiFi internet capabilities, plus more and easier voice recognition functions.
These will all stem from an extension of Ford's current Sync system, which uses Microsoft's auto software now to play music from an iPod or music player (whether it's on a USB stick or on your Bluetooth-enabled cellphone). The system offers the ability to read your text messages to you, and you can choose from 20 standard responses while on the move.
This read-back capability will be enhanced with the new MyFord system that will be launched this summer by the ability to read your RSS feeds to you on the way into or from the office, the ability to browse the Internet when in Park if you're in a hot-spot zone, although this ability may not make it to market until the end of the year. Drivers with an Internet USB stick can offer passengers Net access on their laptops while on the move.
You will also be able to customize your home screen so that functions you use most often can show up on the main screen. For example, you can set up your greeting screen to feature 12 function shortcuts from any area to always greet you in the morning, including the heated seats, your favourite stereo presets (regular or satellite) and priority numbers you often call. Then come the summer, you can switch these heat presets for something else, or use the USB to transfer over all your settings to another MyFord-equipped vehicle.
The MyFord Touch system will be unveiled today at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, continuing a tradition the company started three years ago when Ford first launched the Sync system.
The MyFord and similar MyLincoln Touch systems will debut around mid-year in the Oakville, Ont.-built 2011 Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX, and will be standard on incoming new models after that.
Although Ford demonstrated the system's abilities at a Detroit show sneak peek event in mid-December, nobody was allowed to actually try it. It offers a lot, but will these offerings be easy to use on the road? We''l have to see.
Texting danger 'off the charts'
The fact that traffic fatalities have gone down over the past 20 years while the number of mobile phone subscriptions have skyrocketed in the same time is a very rough indicator that the dangers of driving while talking on the phone have been at least a little overblown, one senior safety researcher at Ford says.
However, looking more closely at the distraction rates of drivers when using their mobile devices, Dr. Louis Tijerina, Ford's senior technical specialist in active safety research and advanced engineering, said that texting was by far the most distracting and therefore dangerous activity behind the wheel of those studied. He cited a staggering 23-fold increase in risk as compared to a normally focused driver for those texting, which presumably would include Blackberry emailers as well.
"It is literally in its own universe of risk," said Tijerina, saying that although the two are difficult to compare directly, drunk driving has been found to increase risk seven or eight times at the legal limit of 0.8. "It's greater than anything else that we've seen."
A ban on the use of hand-held devices in the car went into effect in Ontario in October, while fines for blowing between 0.5 and 0.79 were increased last May. Firs- time offenders of the lowered alcohol limit face an automatic three-day licence suspension, $150 fine and the immediate impounding of their car.
New C-Class coupe coming from Mercedes
A Mercedes-Benz rival to the BMW 1-Series is reportedly in the works, after BMW's small coupe met a warm sales reception in the United States.
Auto website InsideLine.com reported recently that Daimler board member Dr. Thomas Weber confirmed that the firm is preparing a two-door version of the C-Class sedan to arrive in 2011.
The car will use new-version, direct-injected, 3.5-litre V-6 engines, with a twin-turbo unit putting out more than 300 hp, the site reported, plus have the capability to be paired with its hybrid systems.
The new coupe will not be a replacement for the CLK, the pretty pillar-less coupe that is being replaced by the E-Class Coupe and upcoming Cabriolet, as Mercedes gets away from its confusing tendency to start all its coupe names with a C (CLK, CL) in addition to its popular C-Class lineup.
The next big Benz coupe will also reportedly adopt the S-Class coupe moniker, starting near the end of this year.
Dealer must disclose vehicle history
A stricter consumer protection law finally went into effect Jan. 1 in Ontario that will obligate registered dealers to disclose a vehicle's "true history and condition."
This includes communicating any structural or flood damage, whether the vehicle was listed as salvaged or rebuilt, and whether the vehicle was used as a police, taxi or daily rental car.
Should the new- or used-car dealer not list these on a plain-language contract, the consumer will be able to cancel the contract, within various specified periods.
Also, if the ads you're seeing in the newspaper look or read a little different, that may also be due to the new Motor Vehicle Dealer Act, since the new rules require "all-in inclusive pricing" for both new and used cars.