Today at Ford Australia’s HQ in Melbourne, Ford announced the release of Ford SYNC into the Australian market. After being released in the United States and Europe, it’s now our turn to get hands-on with the in-car voice command system.
The CEO of Ford Australia, made the announcement to a range of car and technology journalists assembled from across the country. Ed Pleet is the head of connected services at Ford and detailed the One FORD strategy (One team, One Plan, One Goal). It’s clear that Ford really see themselves as not only a car company, but a technology company.
Ford SYNC is currently in 4 million vehicles across the world and projected to be in 13 million by 2015. With dramatic growth in mobile devices and connectivity, Ford is looking to capitalise on this trend. There are currently more than 6 Billion mobile devices in the world and since 2008 there has been 25 billion apps downloaded from Apple’s App Store alone.
To indicate just how connected Australians are, last year Australian’s visited Facebook 6.2 billion in 2011. With more of that traffic coming from mobile devices, its clear there is an opportunity for vehicles and car companies like Ford to capitalise on that trend.
The development time of a vehicle has typically been 5-7 years, which has now compressed to 2-3 years. This is still much longer than the development and upgrade cycle of mobile phones. With these numbers in mind Ford developed SYNC in partnership with Microsoft to take advantage of that connected device in your pocket.
Ford SYNC is a button on the steering wheel that enables the driver to give voice commands to active the following features.
- Phone calls
- Audible Text Message
- Music Management
- Smartphone Applications
Ford worked with Nuance to have 150 voice commands, but can learn more. There are multiple language supported and today, Ford announced the addition of Australian voice support. This allows SYNC to pickup on the intricacies of the Aussie accent. Those who’ve used voice controlled systems before will know that English support isn’t Australian support.
Ford SYNC emergency assistance is a feature that will automatically call emergency services in the case of an accident. The driver has up to 10 seconds to cancel the call in the event the crash wasn’t severe enough to require assistance.
SYNC provides the emergency operator exact GPS co-ordinates of the vehicle and will open a line for the driver to communicate directly. The system works by using the customer’s mobile connected device which allows Ford to offer the emergency service for free for the life of the vehicle. This is a key difference over competitors.
AppLink is a platform for developers to write applications that integrate with the vehicle. There are currently 10 apps that have been approved. Device support extends from iOS to Android, Windows Phone and Blackberry.
Ford recently had a hackathon at Facebook’s Palo Alto campus to take advantage of the API. Examples of projects created was an automatically check-in at locations when the ignition is switched off. A friend generated playlist for music in your car, so you switch on and music plays automatically, chosen by your friends.
Teams then had to pitch a panel of judges to establish who’s idea was the ‘coolest’. The goal here is to create the first “socially connected car”. With connectivity projected to expand to vehicle-to-vehicle or vehicle-to-infrastructure, the possibilities are endless and your car’s feature list will actually grow over time.
Next month TechCrunch Distrupt is having a hackathon to build apps using the Applink API.
Overall its great to see Ford’s SYNC technology finally coming to Australia after years of our international neighbours enjoying the experience.