updated 05:35 pm EST, Sat January 10, 2009
Ford touts SYNC 3.0 at CES
Ford this week introduced a new set of SYNC 3.0 services that leverage voice-recognition software, integrated GPS technology and Bluetooth-capable mobile phones to deliver personalized traffic reports, turn-by-turn driving directions and up-to-date information (business listings, news, sports and weather) -- without the need for a built-in navigation system. Due this spring, SYNC 3.0 with Traffic, Directions and Information will deliver hands-free access to personalized traffic reports, turn-by-turn driving directions and up-to-date information including business listings, news, sports and weather using a customer's cell phone.
Unlike GM's OnStar technology, SYNC enables external devices such as the cell phone or iPod using voice recognition. Ford says it has no interest in developing its own proprietary system and will continue to offer consumers a variety of voice-enabled services that leverage external devices and services. Currently, the Microsoft/Ford SYNC solution provides emergency, diagnostic and information services.
Sync 3.0 features an "offboard navigation system" that connects to your car via your Sync-connected Bluetooth cellphone. The system can provide many of the popular navigation services but without the need for on-board navigation device. Like previous versions of SYNC, users can use their voice or dashboard inputs to control a variety of services such as dialing, sending text messges, and now navigation: users request trip directions from a SYNC server that sends the text-based information via a cell phone to the dashboard. Users can then navigate via text prompts on the radio display. The service will also send traffic information as text messages, which can be read aloud by SYNC.
Leveraging Ford's Human Machine Interface (HMI) strategy, SYNC 3.0 extends voice recognition to be more natural and conversational : SmartGauge with EcoGuide, which launches on the new 2010 Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan Hybrids this spring, is new instrument cluster that provides real-time information and "coaches" drivers on how to achieve maximum fuel efficiency in their hybrids.
Ford also offered a glimpse into the future with a new, more powerful HMI that "takes SYNC to the next level" through the use of configurable controls and the use of an electronic personal assistant, or "avatar," named Eva. Engaged through conversational speech, Eva acts as the liaison to the vehicle's connectivity and infotainment features, including SYNC and the internet.
Ford also noted that the SYNC system is upgradeable, enable customers to add new features and applications by using simple download features. While the new service will be available on all 2010 model-year, SYNC-equipped Ford, Lincoln and Mercury models with no monthly subscription fees for the first three years, Ford did not provide any details on future pricing beyond the initial three-year term.
However, Ford did say that it would be making the system available globally starting in 2010: first in Europe, then migrating to Asia Pacific and Australia; however, traffic, directions and information is available in the United States, only. In addition, Ford is also partnering with electronics retailer Best Buy, to help build SYNC awareness and provide tech support through its Geek Squad sonumer consulting services.
SYNC 3.0 with Traffic, Directions and Information will be available on the following 2010 Ford cars: Focus, Fusion, Flex, Expedition, F150, SuperDuty, Sport-Trac, Edge, Escape, Explorer, Mustang, Taurus, Milan, Mountaineer, MKS, MKX, MKZ, Navigator and Mariner.