Ford Sync 3 to Extend BlackBerry's Reach in Connected-Car Systems
This would have been nice on the older Sync versions, which had small on-screen buttons and menus that were hard to read. However, BlackBerry working with the phone vendors has made some significant strides in interface design and, as a result, the buttons are bigger and the text easier to read. Overall, the interface is simpler and more intuitive, according to Ford. "Simplicity has value," said Ford's Global Director of Human Machine Interface Parrish Hanna in a prepared statement released by Ford. "Reducing the number of things on-screen also makes control easier and is designed to limit the number of times a driver has to glance at the screen." At the heart of the well-thought-out simplicity is BlackBerry's QNX, which already does such things for other manufacturers. "As a matter of policy we do not discuss the products or product plans of our customers," a BlackBerry spokesperson told eWEEK, "but we can confirm that the QNX OS will be used in Ford Sync 3." "As a leader in software platforms for in-car electronics, QNX Software Systems provides the world's automakers and automotive Tier 1 suppliers with technology and engineering services for a wide range of in-vehicle systems. Our standards-based software platform is used throughout the auto industry and QNX has worked with Ford on technology that is available in vehicles on the road today," the spokesperson said.But looking past just software, standardization in human interfaces is actually one place where the auto industry is a leader. Think back on the basic design of an automobile, and you'll see standards in the placement of the steering wheel, the accelerator, the brakes and the clutch (on cars that have one). This standardization took place over decades of development with some outside prodding by the government. But without standardization, cars today would be more difficult to drive especially when people had to change from one car to another, and thus more dangerous. Over time, the benefits were obvious. This same force is happening in the design of the digital interfaces on auto control systems where driver distraction has already become a significant issue. Clearly, this was the right move for Ford, and one more feather in BlackBerry's cap.
The idea of using a standards-based approach to software is relatively new in the U.S. auto industry, where an "NIH" (not invented here) approach is common. But in this case auto makers have far more experience with the hardware than with software in their product designs. And when it comes to something like human interface design for software systems, there's a lot to be said for experience. This is one area where the computer industry has experience in abundance.