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Hyper-connected Ford Sync-equipped Focus coming to Europe in 2012

Chris Finnamore
1 Mar 2011
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Ford is finally bringing its in-car voice-controlled system to European customers - with added juicy extras.

Lucky Ford-owning Americans have had the pleasure of Ford’s voice-controlled Sync technology since 2007, but the system is finally coming to Europe next year - blame all our silly languages and dialects.

Sync lets you control navigation, climate control, in-car entertainment and communication, just by barking orders at it. Ford claims it can understand 10,000 commands - the idea is that you can use the system without having to tailor your speech to it, so “play song” works as well as “play track”. It will also read text messages back to you, and let you reply by selecting responses from a list.

WiFi settings

The voice recognition is based on technology from Nuance, which makes the Dragon Dictation speech-to-text software and the excellent Dragon Dictation iPhone app. The demonstration unit was set to recognise North American accents, and had no problems understanding our German host’s attempts at US English.

Voice control is just one aspect of the system. As we saw at CES in Las Vegas you can also control the system’s functions via a high-resolution touchscreen - the menus are logically laid out, but the screen lags about half a second behind your key presses.

It also has powerful media playback functions. You can connect an iPod or other supported MP3 player via USB (Ford will announce a list of compatible models at launch) and Sync will find and index your music files itself, ready for voice-controlled playback. You can even plug in a USB stick full of songs, and Sync will sort them by artist, album and genre, or you can just plug any audio source into the stereo RCA connectors.

Connections

The final, and possibly most exciting, part of the package is internet connectivity. There are three ways to get online. The car has built-in WiFi, so you can park near a hotspot and log in, you can plug a USB 3G modem into a dedicated USB port or connect your phone via USB or Bluetooth to use it as a modem - again, Ford will announce compatible models at launch.

The internet connectivity can be used for a number of tasks - traffic information and music-streaming services are two obvious examples. However, the attitude of those on the Ford stand was that having an internet connection opens the door to all kinds of added functionality via, you guessed it, apps. While the system is very much closed-source, Ford has given certain developers access to a programming kit, so there will be more installable software to come. Top of our wishlist is a home automation communication app, which lets your house know you’re on the way home, turns on the oven and runs a bath.

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