Do you drive a relatively recent Ford car or truck? If so, your vehicle may soon become a significantly better listener, since Ford has added support for Apple’s Siri Eyes Free technology to MyFord Touch systems for Ford vehicles dating back to model year 2011.
If you’re wondering what Siri Eyes Free is, you wouldn’t be alone, since Apple has promised a variety of car-integration features over the years, but shipped relatively little, while juggling names and features along the way.
Siri Eyes Free lets you control Siri on your iOS device through your car’s in-dash audio system. Apple announced Siri Eyes Free in June 2012, with former Apple executive Scott Forstall saying that the technology could be in vehicles within 11 months. It started shipping in vehicles in 2013, though it has by no means become widespread. Although Siri Eyes Free might seem like older tech, it is just now being added to 2016 models from manufacturers like Subaru and Nissan.
In June 2013, Apple’s Eddy Cue announced a more ambitious system called “iOS in the Car” that encompassed both Siri Eyes Free voice control and an iOS-like interface that lets you use the vehicle’s touchscreen to control your iPhone. In March 2014, that system was renamed to CarPlay, but didn’t appear in an actual car until September 2014, and even then, it was in the $300,000 Ferrari FF that most of us will never see on the road, much less own. Aftermarket CarPlay systems became available from Alpine, Kenwood, and Pioneer relatively quickly, but CarPlay support among mainstream automakers is just now getting off the line with cars like the 2016 Honda Accord and Civic. MacRumors has a comprehensive roundup on CarPlay.
Owners of supported Ford vehicles can download the Siri Eyes Free update from the Ford owner’s site (registration required). Reader Bocaboy tells us that installing the update requires first copying it to a USB thumb drive formatted as MS-DOS (FAT) and partitioned as Master Boot Record — do this in Disk Utility. Plus, he noted that the update process takes 25–30 minutes and the car must be running the entire time.
After the update, you activate Siri on a paired iPhone by pressing a button on your vehicle’s steering wheel. Here’s a video of it in action, but wow, is it a terrible example of using Siri.
MyFord Touch is the second generation of Ford’s Sync entertainment and communication system, introduced in 2007. The third generation of Sync, based on Blackberry’s QNX operating system, has supported Siri Eyes Free since its 2014 debut, but now Ford owners with the second-generation, Microsoft-based MyFord Touch can take advantage of it as well. Unfortunately, there is no Siri Eyes Free update for the first-generation Ford Sync system, also designed by Microsoft. The versioning on these systems is confusing; we hope the Ford owner’s site makes it easy to figure out what you have.
If you have a supported vehicle, let us know how the update goes, and how well Siri Eyes Free works for you — none of our regular contributors have such a car. The voice navigation systems we’ve tried in cars from the likes of Nissan and Subaru have been universally lousy, particularly if you’ve become used to the fluidity of issuing voice commands to Siri on an iOS device. So anything that provides more access to Siri is a good thing, and Ford gets major points for improving the technology experience for owners of older models — hopefully other manufacturers will follow suit.