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Car and Driver: Ford Finally Offers Apple Siri Eyes Free—As Free Update

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MyFord Touch Phone screen

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Ford and Lincoln owners can now enable Apple Siri Eyes Free for the first time, via a free software update. But unlike most automakers, Ford is extending the upgrade to older cars, including any vehicle with MyFord Touch or MyLincoln Touch from 2011 onward.

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Since Eyes Free debuted in 2012, other manufacturers have already integrated Apple’s voice assistant, which lets the driver start Siri commands with the vehicle’s talk switch instead of holding the iPhone’s home button. (Honda, GM, and Ferrari were among the automakers offering it in 2013, but Ford’s partnership with Microsoft prevented such a deal.) Eyes Free can dictate text messages, look up information from the web, and complete a range of other cloud-based tasks that Ford’s system can’t. Like previous MyFord Touch updates—and there have been several of them—owners can download the update to a USB stick and plug it into their cars. About five million vehicles are eligible. Whether or not Eyes Free and other voice controls actually work, studies have shown they can reduce a driver’s concentration and be distracting despite their hands-free capabilities.

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The company’s MyFord Touch has had a bumpy go of it. The system bombed shortly after it was introduced to fanfare in 2010. Laggardly, slow, and complex, the interface essentially ruined Ford’s original Sync voice-activated system, which it had revealed in 2007 on the 2008 Focus. When combined with touch-sensitive radio and climate controls, MyFord Touch dragged down the company’s quality ratings for several years until Ford quietly started adding back physical knobs and buttons. The latest Sync 3—which no longer runs on Microsoft componentry—is new for 2016 and currently available on 10 Ford and Lincoln models: Escape, Focus, Fiesta, Mustang, Transit, F-150, C-Max, MKC, MKX, and the 2017 MKZ. By the end of 2016, all of Ford’s 2017 models will use Sync 3. We’ve tried it and came away impressed.

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Ford says it’s debating how to offer Sync 3 customers upgrades when their cars aren’t parked near an external WiFi network (they don’t have built-in cellular modems like GM). USB downloads will probably continue, and the company is experimenting with direct software uploads from a connected smartphone.

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