In June of this year, Ford CEO Alan Mulally admitted to on-going software problems with the company's Sync and especially recently introduced MyFord Touch technologies that needed major fixing. Ford has been also taken to task in the press for rolling out MyFord Touch before it was ready in its latest Ford Edge SUV and Explorer vehicles.
The problems have gotten so bad that in October, Consumer Reports magazine lowered Ford vehicles' overall reliability rating from 10th to 20th, which was a major blow to Ford's brand image but should not have come as much as a surprise. For in June, the 2011 Initial Quality Study released by J.D. Power & Associates had already dropped Ford's quality ranking from 8th to 17th, also because of the problems associated with MyFord Touch.
The AP is reporting today that Ford, in an unprecedented move, has decided to release a major software upgrade to the MyFord Touch system in early 2012. According to the AP, Ford is going to send out flash drives with the upgrade to some 250,000 US owners of MyFord Touch and MyLincoln Touch (the Ford Lincoln brand version of the software). The owners can upgrade their vehicle's software themselves or can have the dealers do it for them for free, which Ford says will take about 45 minutes. The company is still trying to figure out how to upgrade the 200,000 non-US owners of the software, the AP reports.
The AP also reports that Ford is planning to bring back "... volume and tuning knobs ... because it found people didn’t like using a touch screen for those functions." Ford is apparently rediscovering the old saying that the most reliable software is that which doesn't exist.
According to the AP story, Ford dealers have already performed 4 software upgrades to the MyFord Touch system to try to fix bugs and user interface issues. MyFord Touch is based on its Sync voice-command platform which Ford designed with Microsoft (enough with the snickering and jokes).
According to this story at Brake & Front End, most cars could probably stand a software upgrade or two. In fact:
"GM estimates that 70% of 1995 and newer GM cars could benefit from a flash update, yet few cars have received the updates because technicians are not aware the updates exist."
You can also take a look at other automotive manufacturers having software troubles here.
Any bets on how soon it will be before some MyFord Touch owners report receiving phishing emails supposedly from Ford claiming that they don't have to wait until next year and can download the software upgrade directly onto flash drives via their home computers right now but actually contain links to malware instead? My guess is by tonight.
Robert N. Charette is a Contributing Editor to IEEE Spectrum and an acknowledged international authority on information technology and systems risk management. A self-described “risk ecologist,” he is interested in the intersections of business, political, technological, and societal risks. Charette is an award-winning author of multiple books and numerous articles on the subjects of risk management, project and program management, innovation, and entrepreneurship. A Life Senior Member of the IEEE, Charette was a recipient of the IEEE Computer Society’s Golden Core Award in 2008.