Ford's recently unveiled electric Mustang SUV, Mach-E, is fast becoming one of the more buzzing car revelations of recent years. But while the new EV looked competent on its LA Auto Show debut, the company pretty much poked at a really important part of the Mustang Mach-E: software.
The performance and practice of the Mustang Mach-E will be crucial to its success, but the new Sync 4 software that will provide the giant 15.5-inch touchscreen in the middle of the dashboard will have a major impact on daily life in this car. Therefore, it was disappointing that Ford did not provide much opportunity to interact with the software, and in some cases advised against people trying to use it.
That's right: the software that ran on the three screens that Ford unveiled at Hawthorne Municipal Airport on Sunday night was so buggy that the handlers hovering around the car kept stopping people from knocking on the screen. The only place people could try to interact with Sync 4 was at a single stand-alone kiosk in the next hangar over, which – along with the rest of the event – closed a little more than an hour after the stage was unpacked.
Ford may have the same kiosk on the LA Auto Show floor this week, and I hope they do. It's also a full year to go before Mustang Mach-E hits dealerships in late 2020.
But work software felt like the biggest thing missing Sunday night, especially after Ford CEO Jim Hackett spent seven minutes ahead of the unveiling and talked about Sync 4 and the main touch screen. He touted the "architectural graphics" developed by the company's software team for Sync 4 (which is apparently the company's speech for "embossed digital buttons"), hands-free voice interactions with the ability to understand contextual commands, and access at one touch the most crucial menus and settings.
Ford gave the press a better idea of what Sync 4 will look like in the Mustang Mach-E during an orientation the Friday before the reveal, but again there wasn't much time for interaction. Instead, we just heard a lot about how Sync 4 will work as opposed to really seeing it in action. (In addition to what Hackett mentioned on stage, we were told how Sync 4 allows users to simultaneously use features from CarPlay or Android Auto and from Ford's infotainment system; how Sync 4 will be able to dynamically incorporate charging stops in trips ; and that the software will learn how to use it and customize the interface accordingly.)
Large tech companies often try to demonstrate software live on stage just to make things go terribly wrong, and vehicles reveal events are chaotic conditions, so I that Sunday night wasn't necessarily the best place to showcase something like Sync 4 in action. But one of the reasons why these events are basically held is to give the press an idea of what a car will look like. Ford dedicated 15.5-inch Mustang Mach-E property to a brand new version of the software in the car – one that would have to compete with the likes of Google's new built-in Android Automotive operating system – but turned up to the unveiling seemingly unprepared to really show it off . For something so crucial to the Mustang Mach-E's car experience, it felt like a mistake.