Bob Lutz, a recently retired General Motors auto executive, said last week that he worries about auto companies placing complicated media interfaces in cars that a majority of people won’t use. (Autoline After Hours podcast AAH #85 – Lutz Do a Show)
My guess is that auto companies typically install complicated systems in high end vehicles where the target group is so old they have no desire to use them.
The the 2011 Ford Fiesta, equipped with Sync, is an entry car that targets the under 30 age group. A group more likely to love tinkering with gadgets or jailbreaking/rooting their phones.
The Sync Destinations app for Android, iPhone and iPad ties together turn-by-turn navigation built into the Sync head unit.
Ford gives you a complimentary three year subscription to the service when you buy the car new. You supply the data connections with your phone.
Alone, Sync Destinations is an excellent traffic navigation tool. The Inrix traffic layered on Google Maps updates far quicker than Google Maps alone and provides traffic information on smaller roads, like downtown York.
Routes can be created based on touching the map, your phone contacts (Gmail address book for Android), typing in an address, or locating a business (linked with Yelp).
Fastest and alternative routes are offered with maps of the route.
Along the top of several pages, a slider appears that allows you to predict destination time based on real and predicted traffic congestion.
Another page creates a bar chart of anticipated times of arrival based on departure and the amount of traffic you might encounter.
Destinations is inoperable while in motion (sorry passengers), as at this point the saved destinations are handed over to the Sync head unit by verbally requesting your saved route for turn-by-turn navigation from Sync.
You can see that Ford is trying to get a jump on legislation and lawsuits. As with replying to a phone text message in Sync (only under 3 mph) on the Fiesta and using Pandora via AppLink only verbal commands and steering wheel controls are allowed.
To access your Sync Destinations locations in the Sync head unit, use the Sync verbal commands Services > Directions.
Speak the exact name of your saved point. The Sync head unit will dial into Ford’s services via an 800 number when the services command is given.
Data for your turn-by-turn navigation is downloaded via the 800 number, taking an average of six minutes in several trials, and transmitted back to the head unit via Bluetooth.
The good news is that the turn-by-turn trip information becomes active during the download. The initial trajectory of the trip is supplied in the Destinations app if you think to look before you get under way.
While using a dial-up connection probably makes the data connection universally possible cross platform and with non smartphones (Routes can also be set up on syncmyride.com), it is the Achilles heel of using this system.
Going off course during your trip will result in a request to dial back in for a several minute dial-up download, which could be annoying when you head off course in Manhattan during rush hour. Depending on your phone plan, the system uses minutes.
Once the data is loaded into the Sync head unit, the turn-by-turn navigation is a pleasant experience with ample notifications and plenty of timely information on the heads up display. There is a GPS antenna in the Sync unit that monitors the route.
This would be a killer combination of phone app and turn-by-turn navigation if the dial-up data download to the phone wasn’t so slow. Maybe the phone’s data connection can be tapped in the future.
It’s important to note that this is not a Lexus or a BMW, but rather an entry Ford offering free three years of services, a free phone app and a well connected head unit. Most anything is forgivable when a car company even tries to offer electronic bliss on it’s lowest cost vehicle. Software updates in the future could turn a value added novelty into awesome.
The free Sync Destinations app, which has already undergone an update since it’s release a few weeks ago, is a great enhancement to Google Maps/traffic for faster updates and greater coverage even if you use another navigation tool.
Learn more at syncmyride.com
Search: “Sync Destinations” in the Android Market.
Ten days using Ford Sync AppLink with Pandora (greenmesh 1/1/11)