Ford to use Microsoft Azure in back end of new connected car services

18 Mar 2015

Despite dropping the tech giant from its in-car infotainment services two years ago, Ford is returning to Microsoft to help back up its current partnership with BlackBerry.

Earlier versions of the car-maker’s connected car service on its Ford and Lincoln models, MyFord Touch and MyLincoln Touch, were developed with Microsoft but suffered from glitches and bugs, leading to customer complaints and lower ratings.

Ford moved to Blackberry’s QNX service for its newly created Sync 3 in-car service, with all US vehicles made by the manufacturer by next year incorporating the service (all Ford cars globally, by 2018).

And it turns out Microsoft will still play a key role, with Sync 3’s in-built Wi-Fi receiver allowing it to accept Microsoft software updates remotely, with customers only realising they have downloaded the upgrades after the fact, receiving a message to confirm it.

The use of cloud software also allows for other services, like remote fuel gauge and the likes, with upgrades allowing manufacturers to alter graphics, layout and usability as it evolves. The upgrades will in essence reflect similar alterations to smartphones.

The move to QNX gives Sync 3 a simpler layout, larger fonts, and a touchscreen that moves with a swipe up, down or across, with pinch-to-zoom like modern tablets, according to the Detroit Free Press.

“We’ve obviously had a good, long relationship with Microsoft,” Don Butler, director of connected vehicles at Ford, said in an interview. “Microsoft understands the automotive environment and the kinds of experiences that we’d like to enable.”

In-car smart services are becoming big business. Last week Alibaba joined up with Chinese auto maker SAIC to invest around €150m into the development of internet-enabled cars.

Elsewhere a battle between iOS and Android within the connected car dashboard realm is hotting up, with both operating systems fighting for supremacy in the US at the moment.

Azure image, via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic