Ford recently introduced SYNC 3, a new communications and entertainment system that is faster, more intuitive and easier to use with enhanced response to driver commands. SYNC 3’s more conversational voice recognition technology, a more smartphone-like touch screen and easy-to-read graphics will help millions of drivers connect with their lives and control their smartphone while on the road. The next-generation system builds on the capability of SYNC technology already in more than 10 million SYNC-equipped vehicles on the road globally. SYNC 3 begins arriving on new vehicles next year.
“Ford is delivering an easier way for customers to stay connected,” said Raj Nair, Ford chief technical officer and group vice president, Global Product Development. “SYNC 3 is another step forward in delivering connectivity features customers most want, and they tell us this kind of technology is an important part of their decision to buy our vehicles.” Ford took a customer-centric approach in developing SYNC 3, drawing on 22,000 customer comments and suggestions, plus insights gleaned from research clinics, market surveys and tech industry benchmarking.
Although SYNC 3 is optimized for hands-free use, an all-new touch screen delivers an experience similar to a smartphone or tablet. Quicker response to touch as well as voice commands and smartphone-like gestures including pinch-to-zoom and swipe are central to SYNC 3, along with crisp, modern graphics. A bright background and large buttons with high-contrast fonts for daytime use help reduce screen washout in the sun. At night, the display automatically switches to a dark background to help reduce eye fatigue and minimize reflections on the windows.
“We considered all the modern smartphones and mobile operating systems and created something familiar but unique,” said Parrish Hanna, Ford global director of Human Machine Interface. SYNC 3 reduces on-screen complexity and prioritizes the control options customers use most. The home screen features three zone choices – Navigation, Audio and Phone. Tile-like icons dominate the screen, with a quick access function tray along the bottom making for a more straight-forward user experience.
Phone contacts are searchable via a simple swipe of the finger to scroll through the alphabet. With “One Box Search,” SYNC 3 users can look up points of interest or enter addresses in much the same way they use an Internet search engine. “Simplicity has value,” said Hanna. “Reducing the number of things on-screen also makes control easier and is designed to limit the number of times a driver has to glance at the screen.”
Easy-to-use voice recognition
Ford SYNC – the industry’s first system to widely and most affordably offer voice-activated technology to control smartphones – becomes more capable with the next-generation system by minimizing the number of steps needed to carry out a command. With SYNC 3, simply saying “play <song, artist, album or genre>” prompts the system to play the desired song, artist, playlist or album; there is no need to identify the desired category. To switch back to a radio station, the user just says the name of the SiriusXM station or terrestrial radio station number.
Voice search results are enhanced by a better understanding of how consumers refer to businesses and points of interest. Drivers don’t have to know an exact name. They can search for “Detroit Airport” rather than using the official name “Detroit Metropolitan Airport.” With addresses, they can say, “Eleven Twenty-Five Main Street” instead of “One One Two Five Main Street.” When connected to an Apple iPhone, SYNC 3 offers seamless integration of Siri Eyes-Free control. Drivers can seek Siri’s help by holding down SYNC’s “Push to Talk” steering wheel button – much as they would hold down the button on an iPhone to initiate a Siri session.
Ford was first to bring voice control to in-vehicle apps with AppLink, and the experience is further improved with SYNC 3. AppLink allows customers to connect their smartphone to their vehicle and control their compatible apps using voice commands or buttons on the vehicle display screen. AppLink now automatically discovers smartphone apps including Spotify, Pandora, Stitcher, NPR One, SiriusXM Radio and iHeartRadio Auto, and displays their unique graphics and branding. Music and news apps are automatically displayed along with other media sources, just like AM/FM or SiriusXM.
“Overall, AppLink is faster, more responsive and easier to find your apps,” said Julius Marchwicki, Ford global product manager, AppLink. “The overall design of SYNC 3 allows for better integration with smartphones – resulting in a more user-friendly experience.” Developers easily can integrate branded apps into AppLink, providing Ford customers with an experience on the vehicle screen similar to what they see on smartphone screens.
SYNC 3 also features the new ability to update the software via Wi-Fi. Once a vehicle is set up with credentials for a home Wi-Fi network accessible in a customer’s driveway or garage, for example, it can automatically download updates. SYNC 3, like earlier generations of the technology, provides subscription-free emergency service 911 Assist.
The customer’s Bluetooth-connected phone is used to dial 911 in the event of a significant accident, alerting first-responders with the vehicle’s location. With SYNC 3, the car relays additional information, including if airbags were deployed, the type of crash (front, side, rear or rollover) and the number of safety belts detected in use, in order to help emergency call takers dispatch the appropriate resources to the scene.