The Ford car, truck, SUV or crossover of the 21st Century is evolving into a mobile app carriers – a sort of multi-function smart phones on sophisticated wheels – enabling drivers to multitask safely while cruising through traffic.
During the recent 2011 Forward with Ford Conference in Deerborn, Mich., the company’s designers and engineers spent a good chunk of a humid summer afternoon looking inside the coming models of America’s biggest automaker to demonstrate everything you’ll be able to do in a Ford.
The 2012 Ford Fiesta, Fusion, Fusion Hybrid, F-150, Mustang, Expedition, E-Series, Super Duty, Shelby GT500 and SVT Raptor will come standard with SYNC AppLink, a no-charge and industry unique system that controls smartphone apps via voice control. AppLink can access Android and BlackBerry smart phones using Bluetooth and through a USB connection for iPhones.
The first apps enabled by SYNC AppLink include Pandora internet radio, Stitcher news radio and OpenBeak for voice-controlled following of Twitter streams. Of course, all three are available at the Apple iTunes App Store, Android Market and BlackBerry App World.
As for Ford’s in-dash digital displays and functionality, some critics have let Ford have it for offering too complicated a set-up that would force drivers to glance away from the road too often – unless they choose to pull over.
Now, the 2012 MyFord Touch combines a variety of technologies into what aspires to be a more intuitive interface. MyFord Touch looks replace many of the old interfaces buttons, knobs, switches and gauges with voice commands, steering wheel-mounted controls customizable LCD screens. Drivers can choose which function and information show up front through a button click, voice command or touch-screen contact.
To accompany this in-draft trade-up with MyFord Touch, Ford worked to improve its voice recognition and command system. Their engineers realize voice will be the main user interface method in the coming years. So, Ford SYNC now recognizes more than 10,000 voice commands. Most importantly, the kind if voice commands has ben refined to consider human understanding and intent.
By teaming with Nuance Communications, Ford worked up new voice recognition capabilities to help drivers talk to their cars more easily while Ford SYNC more accurately interpreting command intent – what drivers want to do when they open their mouths.
The new voice capabilities are designed to understand intent and meaning of spoken words or phrases that drivers might say, which helps the speech recognition system accurately react and respond to natural, conversational commands.
For example, if you were talking to a human driving companion and wanted to make it clear you could use a little roadside nosh, you wouldn’t say, “Search – destination – restaurants.” You’d say, “I’m hungry.” Ford SYNC will hear that now and extrapolate that you want to find places to eat along your route. Similar, easier command functions also work their way through your music collection, satellite navigation, climate control and other key features.
In addition, optional medical enhancements can help monitor your blood sugar or other key indicators while driving, allowing health professionals to look after you from afar via voice-activated commands.
Ford sunk all of this research into voice tech because their own research indicated consumer acceptance and usage of voice control in the car continues to increase, with “more than 85 percent of SYNC owners now using voice control while driving, up from 70 percent in previous internal research.”
Basically, we’re going to be gabbing a lot to your cars while we’re driving, even though the obnoxious nanny state frowns upon using cell phones during driving. Fortunately, Ford realizes what any proper driver with a pulse knows – what Big Brother doesn’t consider. It is possible to run your mouth safely while your hands and feet run your car.