Ford's latest 48-inch digital dashboard packs great deal of Android functionality

The system utilises Google's Android OS, providing personalisation and modularity
An undated image of Ford. — Ford
An undated image of Ford. — Ford

Ford has surprised everyone with its innovative features. Built on the Android Automotive OS, the system incorporates native versions of Google apps like Maps and Assistant, supported by Unreal Engine graphics.

The highlight is a massive 48-inch curved display, marking Ford's entry into the "screen maximalism" trend. Beyond the impressive screen, the real innovation lies in personalisation and modularity through Google's native Android OS, coupled with 5G connectivity for over-the-air software updates.

An undated image of Fords interior. — The Verge
An undated image of Ford's interior. — The Verge

The system utilises Google's Android OS, providing personalisation and modularity, recognising the driver, and adjusting settings accordingly. The interior displays can be configured to display as much or as little information as desired, enhancing competition with tech-forward rivals like Tesla.

Ford's Chief EV and Digital Design Officer Doug Field, emphasised the transition from hardware-centric to software-centric design, aligning with Steve Jobs' philosophy.

According to The Verge, Field said: “I think displays, in many ways, have been like windows into the inside of the car,” Added, “That was one of the things Steve Jobs taught us: the hardware should gradually become just a window into the world of software.”

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The panoramic 48-inch display, divided into three sections, offers a unique approach to information presentation. Critical information, like speed and driver-assist features, resides in the Critical section behind the steering wheel.

The Supportive section features navigation, while the Glanceable section includes a customisable display with a music player, clock, and widgets. While the display is not a touchscreen, the 11.1-inch centre touchscreen controls all functions, minimizing distraction.

Ford acknowledges concerns about driver distraction due to large screens and emphasises adhering to safety guidelines. The goal is to provide enough information and functionality on the infotainment screen to discourage drivers from using their phones.

The system offers video streaming, gaming options, and web browsing while parked, with a range of supported apps. However, Ford affirms its commitment to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, enabling users to project maps onto the panoramic screen for enhanced visibility.

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Ford's transition to Android Automotive OS faced delays, with the 2024 Lincoln Nautilus becoming the first model to feature the new OS and panoramic display. While the system won't be branded as Sync, Ford plans to retain its in-house operating system for now.

Individual vehicle teams will decide on-screen configurations, ensuring a tailored approach for different models. Despite entering the screen maximalism trend, Ford is cautious about potential distractions, adhering to safety standards.

As cars evolve into advanced computing platforms, automakers grapple with software challenges, connectivity subscriptions, and user dissatisfaction with complex interfaces. Ford aims to address these issues by prioritising user-friendliness and combining physical and digital interfaces for a balanced approach.

The transition to digital controls, similar to Tesla's approach, raises concerns, but Ford emphasises a careful balance, incorporating customer feedback and aiming for a smooth user experience over time.