While the IT industry falls over itself to get its technology into motors, Ford is discovering the hard way what happens when they get it wrong.
A court case into the infotainment system Ford installed in its cars has opened in the US and lawyers for the complainants have got their paws on some rather damaging emails from Ford engineers which show their low opinion of the system.
One engineer describes the system as a “polished turd” and another worries that it is unsellable.
Documents in a class-action lawsuit against Ford and its original MyFord Touch in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) system in a 2013 lawsuit show Ford engineers believed the IVI, which was powered by the SYNC operating system launched in 2010, might be “unsaleable” and even described a later upgrade as a “polished turd.”
At the centre of the problem was Microsoft’s SYNC OS which Vole continued releasing software revisions it knew were defective.
“In the spring of 2011, Ford hired Microsoft to oversee revisions, and hopefully the improvement, of the [software]. But … Microsoft was unable to meaningfully improve the software, and Ford continued releasing revised software that it knew was still defective,” the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit describes an IVI screen that would freeze or go blank; generate error messages that wouldn’t go away; voice recognition and navigation systems that failed to work, problems wirelessly pairing with smartphones, and a generally slow system.
Ford’s CEO Mark Fields even moaned that the SYNC IVI was pants having crashed on several occasions. The court case revealed that he was so frustrated with the system “he may have damaged his car’s screen out of aggravation.”
Fields, who was president of Ford’s Americas division at the time penned an angry email saying that he was once again having many problems with my Sync system. “And yes, you guys already installed version 3.5!!!”
Three months later, Fields expressed his frustration with customers who had to wait for fixes and stated, “I don’t even use the system anymore”.
Ironically Henry Ford’s great grandson experienced significant problems with SYNC and was forced to wait on a roadside for the system to reset and could not continue to drive because he was unable to use the IVI’s navigation system. For those who don’t know Ford’s grandson had a car named after him – the Edsel.
The Tame Apple press assures us that last year, Ford rolled out a software upgrade to its SYNC infotainment system that lets iPhone users wirelessly access Siri Eyes-Free capabilities over Bluetooth and it now uses Apple Maps.
What they are less likely to tell you is that the system also has glitches. For example, when using it to look up phone numbers for points of interest, such as a restaurant, the system will find the phone number but fails to dial it on command.