The Ford Motor Company has revealed the new Ford and Lincoln Digital Experience, its next-generation infotainment system built on Google’s Android Automotive OS that pairs a 11.1-inch central touchscreen with a 48-inch 4K panoramic display.
Personalization sits at the core of the new system, with the user able to customize the apps and content shown on both the touchscreen and panoramic display. This display spans the width of the dashboard and is organized into three sections – Critical, Supportive, and Glanceable.
Situated behind the wheel, the Critical portion of the display serves as the instrument cluster – showing critical information such as the vehicle’s speed and gear selection. Positioned centrally, the Supportive section shows the vehicle’s navigation system, while the Glanceable section is positioned at the right-end of the panoramic display, in front of the passenger seat. This section houses a series of widgets that display graphical information from a combination of apps and services chosen by the user. These can be used to show the vehicle’s tire pressure and current fuel economy, or the latest weather conditions (presented through animated graphics). Together, they allow the driver to see the latest information from their preferred apps while keeping their eyes on the road.
The new system’s personalization capabilities extend further to its adoption of vehicle profiles. Here, up to four profiles can be created that allow separate vehicle users to set their own custom preferences for apps, contacts, and favorite destinations, as well as custom positions for the seating, steering wheel, and mirrors. Tied to a physical vehicle key fob or a digital smartphone key, these individual preferences are then set accordingly as the matching user enters the vehicle.
In leveraging Android Automotive OS, the new system allows customers to access a variety of native, automotive-focused, applications from Google – including Google Maps, Google Assistant, and the Google Play store which hosts the system’s app ecosystem. This ecosystem offers similarly dedicated apps from third-party developers such as Amazon and Spotify, while the system more broadly offers wireless support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. For CarPlay, this support extends to the mirroring system’s new ability to project Apple Maps or Google Maps from the central screen onto the system’s panoramic screen for enhanced visibility.
The new system’s native Google Maps application allows drivers to benefit from real-time information on traffic, road conditions, dynamic and eco-friendly routes, as well as nearby points of interest based on Google’s POI data. Serving as the system’s default VPA, Google Assistant can control a variety of vehicle and app functions – allowing users to set the HVAC, search for info, find and set a destination, request a specific broadcast or satellite road station, make calls, send texts, set meetings, and control connected home devices through voice commands. In addition to these voice controls, and its touch controls, the system also offers a set of physical switches for the multimedia volume and presets, as well as two touchpad controls on the steering wheel.
Through its integrated Google Play store, the Ford and Lincoln Digital Experience offers a broad ecosystem of automotive apps spanning several categories – with Ford highlighting its entertainment and productivity apps. Within entertainment, dedicated apps for music streaming services like Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible, and iHeartRadio work alongside the system’s embedded SiriusXM with 360L to enable a personalized listening experience. These apps, together, operate independently without the need for a smartphone to access or activate them.
Further entertainment applications are unlocked when the vehicle is parked, including those for video streaming (such as Amazon Prime Video and YouTube) and in-vehicle gaming. Gaming apps downloaded on the Google Play Store, such as a Ford-exclusive version of the popular mobile racing game Asphalt Nitro 2, are only accessible while the vehicle is stationary. Ford confirmed that users will be able to heighten the experience of these games by connecting a Bluetooth-enabled gaming controller with the new system.
For productivity, the Ford and Lincoln Digital Experience will offer an available automotive Vivaldi Browser app at launch, and Google Chrome at a later date. Much like its gaming apps, users can link a Bluetooth-enabled keyboard to the system to enable a more familiar typing experience when browsing the web inside the vehicle. Also available to download are a variety of video conferencing apps that allow users to join meetings exclusively through audio-access while driving, with a video feed of the meeting’s participants revealed on the touchscreen once the vehicle is parked.
While the Ford Motor Company has not yet detailed the hardware specifications of its new infotainment system, it did offer insight into its technical capabilities against the system installed in its vehicles today. The company said that its new Digital Experience is capable of more than five times faster main processing, is nearly 14 times faster in graphics processing (enabled by its adoption of Epic’s Unreal Engine), and features four times the memory and eight times the storage than its predecessor. These capabilities, together with 5G wireless technology, support the system’s ability to accept over-the-air software updates that will allow for new apps and services to continuously be added and refined.
These updates will play a key role in the Ford and Lincoln Digital Experience, with Ford shifting its approach to software development – building a general computing platform in order to develop and deliver the benefits of a software-defined system. Here, the OEM transitioned from using two separate modules for the instrument cluster and infotainment system to using a single module for both elements – facilitating faster software changes and an accelerated speed of response to commands via updates. Ford has also made the IVI’s app and system-level updates independent of each other – with system updates pushed through conventional vehicle software updates, and updates for other applications pushed through Google Play – enabling customers to experience and update new apps and services more quickly, as opposed to app experiences being tied to more extensive vehicle system software updates.
The Ford Motor Company confirmed that its new IVI system will be available first on the recently released 2024 Lincoln Nautilus, before reaching other Ford- and Lincoln-branded vehicles at a later date.
Jeffrey Hannah, Chief Commercial Officer at SBD Automotive, got a first-hand chance to review a stationary version of the all-new Ford & Lincoln Digital Experience platform (not called SYNC 5) that was recently publicly announced. Ford plans to launch its new Infotainment platform on the upcoming MY24 Lincoln Nautilus (Ford models to be announced).
See Jeffrey Hannah’s overview and key takeaways on the new Ford system.