Ford's Sync Brings the App Revolution to Your Wheels, With Voice Control

ford sync

Ford's in-car Sync system, which we revealed in detail earlier this month, is already jam-packed with digital cleverness. But now Ford's gone one step further: Not only will it be able to do the usual smartphone voice control tricks we already knew about, but you'll speak to control the apps too.

Ford's got one eye on the future, where we've all got super-clever smartphones on us at all times, and one eye on safety with this technology. The idea is that when you connect up a Sync-compatible smartphone, running the right kinds of apps, to your Sync-enabled car, you'll be able to merely utter a few words of command to get the app to bend to your will.

The system is called Sync AppLink, and at first it'll only work with BlackBerry and Android phones (though iPhone, and possibly iPad, compatibility is scheduled for later in the year). The first vehicle to sport the system from the get-go will be the 2011 Ford Fiesta, though owners of older Sync-capable cars will be able to patch their systems at some point too.

And what little nuggets of app goodness will you be able to speak to? At first it's apps like Pandora, Stitcher, and OpenBeak...meaning you'll be spoiled for smart Net radio or music archive choices, and will be able to tweet your location, ETA, and irritation at traffic jams to your heart's content. You can also be certain that other app makers will start building the right code that connects to Sync's APIs into their apps pretty swiftly.

There is one safety question for Ford about this, though: As clever as Sync is, and powerful as AppLink may be, with its dual voice control/steering column control of smartphone applications, isn't it actually a step beyond what's reasonable in terms of driver distraction? A number of studies have suggested that even speaking on a hands-free cell phone is more distracting than chatting to an in-car companion, so isn't all the higher-thinking associated with composing and sending a tweet out while driving just as dangerous?

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  • Scott Monty

    Kit, thanks for the writeup on the new SYNC AppLink system. We fully support the need for safer driving conditions and we also recognize that it's a fact that people are going to do things in their vehicles that cause distraction - whether it's looking at a map, doing something with their phone, or other activities.

    Our goal is to make it as safe as possible given those realities. Virginia Tech recently released a study showing that using Ford's SYNC system was *less* distracting than not. They found that participants took their eyes off the road an average of 10 times longer while manually selecting a song from their MP3 players compared to using SYNC's voice commands

    You can read the full results at:

    Scott Monty
    Global Digital Communications
    Ford Motor Company