New In-Car Tech

Take a Peek: Ford previews next-gen SYNC infotainment system

Ford has debuted the next-generation of its SYNC infotainment system.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Ford has previewed the next-generation of its SYNC infotainment system, SYNC 4. The automaker claims that the new system is faster, easier, and simpler to use.

Standard screen size will likely vary by vehicle but Ford is already making it known that 12- and 15.5-inch screens will be available. Ford says that the screens will allow users to multitask without going through various menus. On the 12-inch screen, the screen view can be split into two smaller windows.

The 15-inch screen employs something Ford is calling Adaptive Dash Cards. Frequently and recently used features will display below the main portion of the screen and display information such as the next step in the route or audio controls.

Ford SYNC 4 temperature When users change their ambient temperature setting, this what the screen will show.GIF courtesy of Ford Motor Company

"No matter what size screen Ford customers choose, they will be getting an experience tailor-made for their vehicle," said Gary Jablonski, chief engineer for SYNC technology, Ford Motor Company. "SYNC 4 puts these high-definition screens to work not only by offering even crisper displays, but also by making driving easier with new multi-tasking capabilities."

Th new system features an updated graphic design and interface. The looks of the latest SYNC 3 system are intact, with blacks and blues standing out most, however the overall design will vary by vehicle, as will screen size.

Every new Ford vehicle comes with available FordPass Connect, a 4G LTE Wi-Fi hot spot. In vehicles equipped with the newest iteration of the SYNC system, cloud connectivity will be standard, as will voice recognition. The cloud technology allows the system to be able to provide traffic, parking space, and parking cost information in units with navigation.

Ford SYNC 4 volume This is what the SYNC 4 interface looks like when users change the volume.GIF courtesy of Ford Motor Company

In its release featuring the new system information, Ford assures that though the system relies heavily on the cloud, it still has on-board processing power to "minimize performance issues." Performance issues are a concern given the glitches experienced with the SYNC 3 system during test drives of the 2020 Ford Escape and 2020 Ford Explorer, something the company issued a statement saying that they are working to remedy.

The owner's manual is now kept on the cloud for easy perusal. This type of functionality is a common offering from luxury automotive brands.

Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and AppLink apps such as Waze will be able to be accessed wirelessly. AppLink will also allow owners to control their vehicle from their smartphone. SiriusXM with 360L is available.

Ford SYNC 4 Ford has designed the SYNC 4 system to include easier phone call navigation.GIF courtesy of Ford Motor Company

SYNC 4 is designed to learn user behavior and make suggestions based on previous navigation behavior or prompt users to make phone calls to people you frequently speak to.

The new SYNC 4 system will be available on select Ford vehicles starting in 2020.

A new program by Ford and Lincoln allows app users to shop for Nationwide insurance via app.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Shopping for new insurance? Ford and Lincoln have partnered with Nationwide to help owners of the companies' vehicles obtain the right type of insurance for their needs. All the "paperwork" can be done electronically via the FordPass or Lincoln Way app.

Ford Insure and Lincoln Motor Company Insure, powered by Nationwide, offer an all-digital way to secure usage-based insurance coverage through Ford Motor Credit Company's licensed insurance agency. As part of the usage-based insurance plan, Ford Insure and Lincoln Motor Company Insure policyholders consent to be enrolled in Nationwide's SmartRide usage-based insurance program and will share their vehicle connectivity information with Nationwide for the initial six-month policy.

2020 Lincoln Corsair A number of Ford and Lincoln models are eligible for the insurance.Photo courtesy of Lincoln Motor Company

To get a quote, users simply have to log on to their FordPass or Lincoln Way app, click on the insurance tile, fill in some information, and submit the information. To assist with the process, the app automatically fills in key vehicle information on the form.

According to a release, "customers in 39 states with qualifying 2020 Ford or Lincoln vehicles can purchase a policy in minutes and become eligible to save up to 40 percent."

"This is the latest way we're improving the customer experience," said Elena Ford, chief customer experience officer at Ford Motor Company. "Insure makes getting insurance easier for connected-vehicle customers to cover one of their biggest investments – their vehicle – while saving money."

Once customers purchase a policy, the connected vehicle will track and share distance driven, hard braking and accelerating, idle time and night driving to establish a policy rate for renewal. The data are shared with Nationwide through the vehicle's embedded modem, eliminating the need for a special app or vehicle plug-in device. Any discount will be applied when the policy is renewed.

2020 Lincoln Aviator Users in 39 states are eligible for the insurance.Photo courtesy of Lincoln Motor Company

As part of the plan, customers will have access to Nationwide's standard Accident Forgiveness option, as well as crash repairs using genuine Ford parts.

"Customers want to be able to purchase auto insurance as quickly and easily as possible," said Brad Lemons, Nationwide's senior vice president of Personal Lines Product and Underwriting. "Ford and Nationwide are bringing together the best of our businesses to help make this happen in a way that is sure to delight our customers."

States where Ford Insure and Lincoln Motor Company Insure are available include: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Washington, D.C. Launches in other states are planned over time.

The insurance offer starts with these models: 2020 Ford Explorer, Fusion, Mustang, Transit Connect, Escape, Edge, EcoSport, Expedition, F-Series Super Duty, Transit, Ranger and the upcoming all-new 2021 F-150; and 2020 Lincoln Aviator, MKZ, Corsair, Nautilus and Navigator.

The new kiosks significantly cut down on the time spent checking in vehicles at dealerships.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Last fall, Ford initiated a pilot program at seven dealerships across the U.S. that installed digital kiosks designed to help improve the check-in experience for Ford dealerships. The result is a 75 percent reduction in the amount of time customers spent checking in when they arrive at the dealership for service.

"Our goal is to change the perception of the dealership experience," said Robert De Filippo, global director, Ford Retail Customer Experience. "We can start to do this by meeting rising expectations for fast and reliable service and letting each customer know they matter to us."

Ford outdoor kiosk check in Ford is piloting outdoor kiosks as well.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Liberty Automotive Group in Ohio recently ordered more kiosks after successful implementation of the initiative, which resulted in interactions lasting only 25 percent of the time of the traditional check-in at the dealership.

"The way I see it, there are two types of customers," Andrew Bellavia, Chief Operating Officer of Liberty Automotive Group said. "Customers who are coming in for quick service or maintenance on low-mileage vehicles who want to get in and out quickly, and then customers who have unique cases that they want to discuss in-depth with our service staff. These kiosks provide an option to the customer who wants to move fast, freeing up service advisors to address the more complex concerns."

Bellavia said in December the kiosk in the Brunswick location assisted 241 out of roughly 1,100 customers, and 85 percent of these said the kiosk made their check-in process easier.

Across the seven pilot dealers, the average customer check in time using the kiosk is just over two minutes. Additionally, 84 percent of Bellavia's users said the kiosk made their check in experience easier and 90 percent said it was able to answer all of their questions.

Ford explains how the kiosk experience works:

Imagine pulling up to a busy service area. All service advisors are busy assisting other customers. A wait seems eminent. Enter the digital service kiosk. Not unlike digital kiosks seen in other retail establishments such as fast-food or airline travel, digital kiosks in dealership service areas allow customers to check-in and select services without interaction with a service advisor.

Upon approaching the kiosk, the customer is prompted to enter their phone number via touchscreen. From there, the customers' primary information is displayed for verification of name, address, vehicle type, and preferred method of contact. The customer then chooses the services their vehicle needs from various menu options and selects how they would like to be contacted with updates regarding their vehicle service. Recalls pertinent to the customers' vehicle also are displayed on the screen during the check-in process.

According to Ford, outdoor versions of the kiosk currently are being piloted to provide access to vehicle drop-off or pick-up any time of day or night. The new outdoor kiosks will offer similar options as the indoor iterations and will eventually have the added capability of accepting and delivering keys.