NEW YORK CITY (at the New York International Auto Show)Lest you think that all I care about is plugging in the automobile, let me point out that I'm also fascinated with car stereos. When I encountered the first car with an iPod input (connecting to the earphone jack), I thought I'd seen the second coming. I have 37,000 songs trapped on my iPod, and they'd been effectively useless until that little plug (now commonplace on new cars) came along.
Soon, cars used USB connections to directly link the stereo's head end to the iPod, which meant they charge as you drive and display song contents. That was an important step, too. Ford's pioneering Sync system, introduced in the 2008 model year, brought a number of useful features together. I got excited again, because now I didn't even need an iPod. I took my 100-gig portable hard drive and plugged that in. The only glitch was that Sync's Gracenote connection couldn't identify some of my songs. But it could play them all.
Now we're at the next generation, and it's called MyFord Touch, powered by Sync. That seems confusing to me, but I'm sure their marketing gurus said it works. Now, as Ford electronic engineering chief Jim Buczkowski told me, Sync controls quite a bit more of the car, including the climate system. It's about "driver connectivity," instead of "device connectivity."
There's Wi-Fi capability, though the access for the driver is only when parked. Voice commands can set the temperature, pick a navigation destination, or pick a song. Say "Play artist Beyoncé," and lo and behold it does. When it comes to music, it's kind of endless: You can listen to satellite radio, HD radio, connect an MP3 player or a hard drive, and this is the kicker even access music on the cell phone.
I was fascinated by this Pandora app. As most of you already know, Pandora allows your smart phone to play music that sounds kinda like other artists you like. But why limit that to the phone? Now, through Bluetooth, your Pandora radio channels will play through Sync, complete with graphics (see video below). It took Pandora's engineers about two weeks to develop the interface.
The Pandora app is already available on current generations of the Sync system. MyFord Touch appears on the 2011 Ford Edge in the U.S., and on the Focus globally.
My wife is a bigger fan of Pandora than I am. Remember those 37,000 songs? I've got the music, I just need USB inputs for my iPod and hard drive. How about 100 days without repeating a song?
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