Update on Automatic's Ford SYNC with Siri Feature

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  • Updated 3 years ago
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Ford Siri with SYNC is no longer supported for Automatic.

For instructions on how to update your Ford vehicle to the latest version of SYNC that works with Siri, please see this 
Ford blog post.

For some history on this decision...

Adam Altman, Head of Product at Automatic:

Over the last few months, there have been a number of inquiries about the state of our Ford SYNC with Siri feature and its future plans—specifically for it coming to our second generation hardware.

We wanted to share the decision that the SYNC feature is currently on maintenance-only mode, and it is not scheduled to have continuing development for now. That doesn't mean never per se—it just means we're not committing to it for now. What that does mean is that it will remain a Gen1 only feature for the foreseeable future.

We know that isn't really enough of an explanation for those with a shared interest in this outcome, so we’d like to shed some light on why we came to that decision, how we prioritize, and share some of the technical history that influenced it all...

SYNC features have only ever been available on Gen1 hardware, leading many to believe it had to do with hardware versions. In fact, the culprit is firmware versions and the tradeoffs therein: Building the SYNC/Siri feature on our Gen1 hardware was relatively straightforward and something that we could add nearly for free because of the architecture of the firmware at the time. It came for little work and it was a nifty thing we could do, so we did. Had it been meaty work, it would have had to reach a much higher bar of usefulness to the overall user base for inclusion and likely would not have made the cut.

At our stage of product maturity (read: still early, as things go) we are working on the features that apply to a large share of drivers at a time. Going deep on something that only a minority of users can use is hard to justify now. As time goes on, I imagine we’ll be able to get there even for the hard things. 

That same firmware architecture that made it easy to deliver SYNC was actually quite a roadblock to many other things that are essential to the product's core functionality — like the robustness of connecting up to the phone and ensuring that GPS could get and lock a signal in a reasonable amount of time. To do these things well, we knew we needed to re-architect the firmware.

With this new era firmware—versions 1.0.0 and higher—certain other features that had been languishing in our backlog became much easier to deliver: diesel support, streaming PIDs, faster FW updates, and more things that are coming down the pipe in our next major app versions. Unfortunately, it changed the way we speak to cars in a way that made the SYNC feature much, much harder to deliver. It can be done, but it’s now in that category of "can’t justify the time tradeoff."

Instead of cutting off support altogether, we wanted to give this feature a graceful retirement for now. Even the Gen1 adapter has updated beyond the Ford SYNC with Siri firmware for most users. So keeping the SYNC feature active on your account is actually a matter of keeping you on an old firmware version, something we went to great lengths to be able to do for those who care about this feature. As the firmware for Gen2 was developed entirely in this new paradigm, there’s no way for it to run the old versions, which is why it can’t have SYNC.

As we will inevitably rebuild our applications in the future, and the feature’s UI would need to be rebuilt, the same sort of tradeoff will take place. It is likely that to continue using it at that point, one would need to remain on both retired firmware and app versions, foregoing many of the new features and improvements we plan to bring to market.

We hope this makes some sense and that open communication and conversation about why not is at least a minor consolation.
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Posted 3 years ago

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