Ford has today announced that its SYNC platform is finally coming to Australia and the Asia-Pacific region, after being rolled out in North America and Europe. To be included in the new 2013 Ford Focus launched this month, SYNC allows customers to safely make phone calls and play music with simple voice commands as opposed to pushing buttons and distracting the driver.
SYNC has up to 150 commands, and connecting your phone or music player is simple – through Bluetooth or via USB (which, depending on the device, will also charge your player for you). The wheel also has mounted controls on the steering wheel where users can use voice commands or through the physical buttons to make calls or play/stop music.
Developed with Microsoft, the SYNC platform is already installed in 4 million cars globally. Ford projects that this will increase to 13 million vehicles by the end of 2015. They have also partnered with Nuance Communications, makers of the popular Dragon dictation service, to be able to understand the Australian accent and vocabulary – so, if Siri or S-Voice has trouble understanding you, your car won’t.
The SYNC platform will also be ready for the Asia-Pacific market – including China. The Chinese version of SYNC understands Mandarin, and is able to understand the local dialects, including from Beijing, Guangdong and Shanghai.
The company also used today to show off the Ford Sync to some people in the tech media (and me), and it could understand every word I said (compared to S-Voice on my Galaxy S III, which mostly doesn’t recognise commands for me). It was also simple to use and the commands are pretty easy to remember – and if you ever forget, you do get a little pop up box to tell you want to say.
I did slightly become annoyed with the message every single time I pressed a command. But it’s probably me and my generation being used to things happening at an instant. I do get why they do that, however – to alert the user what they have pressed, so their eyes are not taken off the road.
UPDATE (30 August 2012): I have been advised by Ford that you can actually turn that off if you are comfortable with using the system.
Ford Australia has also confirmed plans to introduce two new features that are currently available in the United States only – AppLink and Emergency Assistance. The latter feature will automatically call emergency services if it detects that you have been in a serious accident with airbags deployed, or the fuel pump has been shut-off.
Users will have ten seconds to cancel the call before it will place the call, and it will do the talking for you, providing coordinates to emergency services, before the driver is allowed to communicate with the emergency operator. Emergency Assistance is free – and is simply using your phone to dial the services; and you can also still communicate while you step away from the car to safety.
AppLink provides a gateway for apps to interact with the SYNC system, and allows users to be able to control the app through voice commands and the control buttons on the steering wheel. It will only work with BlackBerry, iOS and Android apps and there are currently ten apps that support it in the United Sates including Pandora, MOG, Slacker Radio and TuneIn. However, the company is actively looking for developers to build this feature into their applications. Australian developers can register their interest at their developer website: http://www.syncmyride.com/developer.
The date for these two features to come to the Australian models have not been revealed, but they are “working towards launching [it] in the [Asia-Pacific] region.”
You can see some shots of the system below.
Disclaimer: Terence Huynh’s travel to Ford Melbourne’s HQ was paid by Ford and their PR agency (he could have taken the train, but taxi was probably quicker and better because he avoided the morning peak-hour train crush). These have not influenced his views on Ford.