Ford’s voice-activated SYNC in-car mobile connectivity system will be rolled out across all of its updated and new passenger models in Australia, and looks set to feature in the locally made Falcon and Territory when both are refreshed in 2014.
By connecting compatible mobile phones via Bluetooth or USB, SYNC fully integrates the key functions of the phone into the vehicle’s display screen, automatically downloading its contacts and allowing drivers to make and receive calls, listen to texts and play music using voice commands.
SYNC made its Australian debut in the updated Ford Focus LW MkII this month, launching with a unique voice assist, named ‘Cathy’, and updated voice recognition software designed to better understand the nuances of ‘Australian English’.
The all-new Ford Kuga SUV will be the next to feature SYNC technology when it lands in local showrooms in the first quarter of 2013, and will be followed by the brand-new Ford EcoSport compact SUV around the middle of next year, the updated Ford Fiesta by the third quarter of 2013 and the mid-sized Ford Mondeo, which is expected to arrive in early 2014.
SYNC implementation is also expected to be part of the $103 million upgrade to Ford Falcon sedan and ute and Ford Territory SUV for 2014 that was promised by the Campbellfield-based manufacturer in January.
Despite its impressive functionality, the version of SYNC initially offered by Ford Australia lacks some of the most innovative features of the system fitted by Ford across its cars in North America.
One of those is ‘911 Assist’, which uses the connected phone to automatically dial emergency services directly if the vehicle has been involved in an accident that has caused the airbags to deploy.
Unlike the emergency calling services already offered in some vehicles Australia, SYNC’s 911 Assist operates through the phone, so the driver or passengers can move away from the vehicle and continue the call, and is not part of an extra-cost subscription plan. Occupants have 10 seconds to cancel dialling if emergency assistance is not required.
Ford Australia is currently working on adding a local ‘000 Assist’ feature to its SYNC-equipped vehicles, and could have it ready as early as next year.
AppLink is another function missing from Ford Australia’s SYNC program, but one it is also working hard to bring to market in the near future.
AppLink allows SYNC to access compatible mobile applications on iPhone, Android and BlackBerry smartphones, fully integrating their functions into the vehicle’s display screen and allowing drivers to operate them through voice commands.
The list of SYNC-enabled apps currently includes a number of internet radio services like TuneIn Radio, Pandora, Stitcher and Slacker, as well as OpenBeak Twitter post reader, Destinations turn-by-turn navigation service and Roximity, which lists the latest offers and discounts available at nearby places.
A number of designers are currently working on making AppLink available in Ford Australia’s SYNC-equipped vehicles.
Ford Asia Pacific and Africa and Europe connected services director Ed Pleet says the number of SYNC-equipped vehicles in the world will more than triple from today’s four million to 13 million by the middle of the decade.