Ford announced the 2024 Mustang yesterday — maybe the last gas-powered one? — and while the vehicle is very similar in its design and shape to the last version, the operating system looks to be all-new, with sharp new graphics and a “digital cockpit inspired by fighter jets.”
It’s so new, apparently, that the company won’t tell us what software it’s running on.
On paper, the 2024 Ford Mustang’s 13.2-inch central touchscreen is running on Sync 4, Ford’s operating system that also powers its current lineup, including the F-150 Lightning and Mustang Mach-E. But videos from the reveal appear to show a user interface that looks entirely different from any Sync 4-equipped vehicle we’ve seen before.
The company won’t tell us what software it’s running on
Some of that may have to do with the inclusion of 3D graphics powered by video game maker Epic’s Unreal Engine. This follows a trend in the auto industry of tapping into the world of photorealistic video game design to bring sharper graphics and more advanced UX to passenger vehicles. Other automakers to use the Unreal Engine include GMC’s Hummer EV and Volvo’s upcoming slate of electric cars.
“We’re taking advantage of every pixel,” said Craig Sandvig, Ford Mustang interaction design manager, said in a statement. “We can be creative in showing necessary driving information and give the driver control of selecting colors, classic Mustang gauges or even a ‘calm’ screen where only minimal details are displayed.”
But if there’s more going on underneath the surface of the Mustang’s new UX, Ford won’t say. We asked the company directly: is the new Mustang running on Android?
“We’ll have more to share about our SYNC 4 / HMI tech between now and market availability,” Ford spokesperson Jiyan Cadiz responded in an email, using the acronym for “human-machine interface.”
He added, “Pretty sweet though, right?”
Perhaps you’ll recall that Ford is reorganizing its entire software strategy around Android, with plans to ship the first Google-powered vehicles in 2023, which is the same year that the new 2024 Ford Mustang will appear on dealer lots. Interesting timing!
There are a number of other interesting software choices made in the seventh generation of Ford’s legendary pony car. There’s an option to switch the gauge cluster to a retro display inspired by the Fox Body Mustang from the late 1980s and early 1990s. At night, it even lights up a green glow. That’s pretty sweet.
There’s also a “Remote Rev” feature that allows vehicle owners to rev their Mustang’s V-8 engines remotely by using a key fob. Ford filed a patent for this a few months ago, but we didn’t expect it to end up in a production model so soon, so that’s pretty neat, too.
But we’re really left wondering about the software capabilities and what’s really underpinning the Mustang’s new and improved digital look. Ford has said it will eventually have “millions” of Android-powered vehicles on the road but has yet to go into details on how that will look exactly. Will they be running Google’s native Android Automotive software, like the new Volvo and Polestar vehicles? Or will this be a version of Sync running on top of Android? Some sort of mash-up of the two?
The 2024 Mustang may hold the answers to our questions.
Update September 16th 9:16AM ET: Ford’s design team told reporters during a background briefing at the company’s Dearborn facility that the 2024 Mustang was not running Android, but a re-skinned version of Sync 4 powered by Blackberry’s QNX software, much like many other current Ford and Lincoln vehicles, according to a source who attended the briefing.