MyFord Touch TeleNav satnav system hands-on

Although the TeleNav satellite navigation system that ties in with Ford's MyFord Touch technology has been around since the end of last year in the States, it's going to accompany the in-car tech when it arrives in the UK in 2012 (around summer). So, Pocket-lint was extra keen to have a play when we visited Ford's Dearborn testing track.

The screen and voice control tech (Ford SYNC) that TeleNav's system employs are both resident in the car already, and, to be honest, if you just want a turn by turn form of satnav, you needn't even bother with the upgrade as it's built in as standard.

MyFord Touch itself can use the Traffic, Directions & Information application installed on a smartphone, and therefore offer basic satnav functionality. However, you'd seriously be missing out on some incredible features and route planning.

For starters, TeleNav’s automotive-grade navigation software offers 3D mapping with visual landmarks, a business directory with around 12 million points of interest (in the US - similar to follow in UK), proactive traffic updates, and connectivity to other services such as e-commerce and weather. However, it is its route planning that has impressed Pocket-lint most of all.

Our demonstration was on a system run in a Ford Focus, and while we couldn't actually drive anywhere, the flick of a demo button had the software believing that it was on the move, so we got a good idea of how it works. Initially, using Ford SYNC, you can just tell the system an address verbally and it finds the location, then it works out not one but three separate routes.

The fastest route it discovers will be the quickest based on traffic updates, road plans and such like. The shortest route may be technically less distance from A to B, but will not necessarily be the speediest. And then there's a cunning Eco route, which is likely to take longer still, but will offer up the best fuel consumption - based on all manner of factors, such as stop and starting and overall top speed.

Another groovy feature that caught our eye was that not only does the TeleNav regularly update for traffic congestion, but roadworks are flagged too. It even alerts you to lane closures up ahead, and rapidly works out ways around them (if possible).

Admittedly, some satnavs do the same, but we've not seen the features as cunningly integrated as in this case. Also, as TeleNav uses your phone's data connection, and works with a large variety of handsets, upgrading your device to a 4G model could technically speed up updates.

Of course, that also means that you may have to increase the size of your contracted data plan, although strangely we were told during the demo that updates are downloaded via a voice call and not data - a statement contrary to what we've found elsewhere on the net (including the TeleNav website), so we're not entirely sure that's true.

Either way, thankfully your data plan (or talk minutes) won't be punished by the downloading of new maps. The MyFord Touch in-car system comes with an SD card slot, and therefore TeleNav's maps and software come on a supplied SD card. Pop it in the hole and bingo, you're good to go. If there's a map update you wish to buy, you receive a new card. Simple.

The first SD card costs $795 in the States (there's no indication on price in the UK yet), but that's relatively cheap in comparison to in-car rivals, which generally come on a DVD for installation on an interior hard drive. Updates are cheaper (around $300, we were told).

To prevent theft, each card is unique and locked to an individual car, although that also means that you can't take it with you to use with, for example, a rental vehicle. Therefore, sadly, there's no way around the exorbitant fees car rental firms charge for satnav systems. That said, if you go abroad, do you really want to pay the data roaming charges? Not on your nelly.

Ultimately, it's all impressive stuff, and we can't wait for the system to come to the UK so we can give it a proper try-out. As long as it's got Minge Land and Bell End in it, we'll be happy.

MyFord Touch and SYNC AppLink coming to all UK Ford cars in 2012

VIDEO: Gracenote demos Ford SYNC's new voice control features

What kind of satnav do you use currently? Do you think that mobile phones are becoming valid rivals to standalone GPS devices? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below...