Ford seeks to turn its vehicles into Blackberries by expanding the functionality of its popular SYNC system with new real-time information features. The new features will allow users to receive personalized news and sports info, traffic updates, and turn-by-turn navigation.
The features use the latest voice-recognition software and integrated GPS technology along with a customer's Bluetooth-capable mobile phone. To take advantage of the latest version-SYNC with Traffic, Directions and Information-customers must activate the service at www.syncmyride.com. From there they need only pair the phone with an equipped vehicle's SYNC system via Bluetooth.
The traffic feature will provide personalized traffic reports sent via text message to the user's device. In the report, drivers will get the position and severity of accidents or new road construction causing gridlock on their daily commute. Users can select the time at which the reports are sent so they can be aware of conditions before they leave home or have SYNC read the report en route.
Drivers in need of direction can search over 14 million different business listings to find their destination. Users control the system through a set of "conversational" voice commands. The turn-by-turn directions consider real time traffic information to provide the driver with the best route. The directions are downloaded to the vehicle and displayed on the radio as well as spoken though the vehicle's audio system. Drivers can also opt to call the business or receive a text message with the business' listing and map
SYNC's information feature allows the user to receive the latest sports, weather and news updates. Drivers can request the information via voice commands or receive personalized updates through the website. There are also new shortcut commands. Now users can simply tell SYNC to provide "traffic to work," or "directions to home." Customers can establish locations such as "home" or "work" on the website as well.
The new services will be available on nearly all 2010 Ford, Lincoln and Mercury models. There will be no subscription fee for the first three years, and because of the system’s ability to relay data over voice, there will be no pricey data plan needed for the user’s cell phone (although text messaging fees may apply).
While the new features increase convince of receiving information on the go, Ford isn't pioneering any new frontiers with this technology. Instead the latest SYNC system merely adds the hands-free vehicle integration element to today's cell phones. If the new features result in less drivers sitting stationary at green lights obliviously checking the latest scores, I'm all in favor.