All-new Focus to pioneer Ford’s SYNC connectivity in growing Asean market
You may have heard of Siri, the voice-activated personal assistant program built into the iPhone 4S, Apple’s latest flagship smartphone.
Requiring only your clear voice, Siri could complete a number of tasks that include sending messages, scheduling meetings, placing phone calls, performing a search, setting alarms, and more.
Now, what if you could perform these same tasks with your car? Definitely reminds you of that black, customized 1982 Pontiac Trans-Am (also known as the Knight Industries Two Thousand or KITT) that was featured in the ’80s hit adventure TV series, the Knight Rider.
About five years ago, Ford became one of the first automobile manufacturers to work with Microsoft in this field, deciding that such interactive capability should be present in all its future models.
But it will not be named Siri, of course, but SYNC as in Ford SYNC, which was developed by Apple’s arch-rival Microsoft using its Windows Embedded Automotive platform.
Microsoft and Ford used Nuance Communications’ voice-recognition technology (which by the way is the same technology that the Siri software employs).
But unlike Siri and the limitless queries it could accommodate, the Ford SYNC is designed to for requests that a driver would require while behind the wheel—a reason why this feature could only be used while inside the car.
“Ford SYNC underscores the importance connectivity plays in the auto business, and the role it has in the industry’s future. From the time it was introduced, the SYNC has turned out to be one of the major selling points of Ford vehicles as our buyers are now more concerned with connectivity as fuel economy and performance,” said Ford Asia Pacific and Africa product director Trevor Worthington during the unveiling of the all-new Focus in Bangkok, Thailand.
Thailand will serve as the Ford Focus’ production hub (at the new $430 million plant at the city of Rayong) for the all-new Focus for the Asian Pacific region that includes the Philippines.
150 voice commands
The Ford SYNC expands on the voice-activated systems currently available in the Fiesta as it is now capable of recognizing up to 150 voice commands that allow sophisticated hands-free control of mobile phone connectivity.
Some of these commands include the ability to control phone, text, music and data functions in the car including browsing the phone or iPod music collection by genre, album, artist, playlist or song title using voice commands; put together a playlist of the music the driver is in the mood for with the “play similar” command; wirelessly connect up to eight different mobile phones; automatically transferring all the names and numbers in the phone’s contact list to the in-vehicle system.
“Text messages can now be retrieved and read aloud, including popular abbreviations and emoticons such as LOL (laugh out loud) and :-D (big smile). Using voice activation, the driver can also send a text reply from a predetermined list of 15 responses,” Ford Asia Pacific and Africa president Joe Hinrichs.
He added that the Ford SYNC in the all-new Ford can now cope better with variations in accent and vocabulary than previous systems, making it easier to access more content by voice.
Ford may now have the technology that could deal with the fine line that divides innovation—i.e. adding too many entertainment and social media connections into the vehicles—and distraction.
This is because without the Ford SYNC’s voice control, drivers will either have to wait until a stop to find a music file, for instance or to attempt to do the same while driving, which only invites road accident.
“Ford SYNC is allowing all-new Focus drivers to easily integrate their digital lives into their automobiles. With a Ford SYNC-equipped vehicle like the all-new Ford, the driver is would still be responding to calls, texting and trying to listen to music while keeping their hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road,” explained Hinrichs.
The all-new Focus will continue to be built in both five-door hatchback and four-door sedan body styles, with a choice of the new Duratec 168 horsepower, 2.0-liter engine equipped with high-pressure gasoline direct injection (GDi) and twin independent variable camshaft timing (Ti-VCT) technology that provides for an enhanced performance and fuel efficiency; or the Duratec 123 hp, 1.6-liter Ti-VCT gasoline engine.
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