it all runs on QNX —
It’s tastefully restrained and very legible—exactly what you want in an interface.
Among the most immediately noticeable technology upgrades in the new Ford F-150 are the truck’s digital displays. We didn’t have any images to share when our coverage was published on Thursday, but Ford sent over a pair of short clips that show off the new UI for the digital main instrument cluster and its latest Sync 4 infotainment system. So we decided to share them with you now. You can check out the gallery above or watch the pair of video clips embedded below.
12.3-inch main instrument display
The F-150 isn’t the first Ford to get an all-digital dash; you can find a 12-inch display instead of old-fashioned dials in newer Mustangs, and the electric Mustang Mach-E crossover uses a 10-inch display in front of the driver. The 12.3-inch screen that faces you in a 2021 F-150 looks more elegant than any of those ‘stangs, though:
“The idea is it presents information in a very directed way so that it almost behaves like a concierge. So it’s presenting the most important information and being able to move things around in a digital environment to make room for other content that’s perhaps more important,” said Mark Sich, F-150 digital designer at Ford. The move away from a skeuomorphic UI required some testing with Ford’s truck customers, Sich told Ars. “What we discovered was that, as long as the information is presented in a real, digestible, understandable, hierarchical way, they were willing to really take that leap of faith.”
“In terms of just how information is represented for the driver, I think we’re quickly coming to this inflection point of, ‘Do we need to still be founded in tradition and legacy of what we’re looking at in terms of representing analog gauges now with pixels?'” said Peter Ruthenberg, chief designer of digital experience at Ford.
“I think for the F-150 customer, through human-centered design process and a lot of iterative research here, we found that this generation at least of F-150 customers weren’t ready for a big leap toward something that walks away from physical gauges,” Ruthenberg said when Ars spoke with the Ford designers recently. “These types of gauges still resonated with them, they felt information-forward. But potentially down the road for future products, we might want to take greater leaps of faith. I think right now we’re kind of in this bridged territory between analog and digital and what that means.”
Toward the end of the dashboard video, you’ll note that the truck’s avatar on the dashboard changes depending upon the drive mode you’re in. This is actually rendered in real-time, not prerecorded video, which Ford says is the only way to have this level of dynamic animation and transitions as a driver switches between different truck modes.
Sync 4 looks different here than it does in the Mustang Mach-E
The F-150 and this year’s Mustang Mach-E are both recipients of Ford’s newest infotainment platform, Sync 4. But it looks wildly different in the two vehicles. The Mach-E uses a massive 15-inch infotainment screen and sports a tile-based UI with a physical jog wheel on the screen. In the F-150, things look a bit more conventional, although the optional 12-inch touchscreen infotainment system still dominates the center console of this much larger dashboard.
Listing image by Ford