Thursday, October 7, 2010

Ford Opens its SYNC In-Vehicle System for Wireless Apps

Ford is enhancing its SYNC in-vehicle communications, information and entertainment system with text-to-voice capability to read aloud incoming SMS messages. The system now enables drivers to reply to text messages via voice commands using 15 preset responses that can be personalized.

Ford has adopted the latest Bluetooth standard -- Message Access Profile (MAP) -- so SYNC can stream text messages from a larger population of smartphones. The company is also urging phone makers to adopt this standard as a step toward safer in-vehicle communications.

Certain cell phone functions are locked out when the vehicle is in motion. Examples include pairing a Bluetooth-capable phone, manually adding individual contacts into the phone book, viewing received text messages on screen, playing video or browsing photos on screen.

Ford intends to bring other smartphone apps into the car in a similar way. The company is releasing an application programming interface (API) that gives developers the ability to use the same voice features of the SYNC system. Pandora Internet radio, Stitcher smart radio and Orangatame's OpenBeak are the first apps to incorporate the SYNC API, with more on the way in coming months. Other examples of driving apps could include location-based services incorporating navigation, traffic and business searches. Ford noted that it is already reviewing more than 1,000 submissions made on the SYNC Developer website for future SDK releases.

"More and more drivers will find a way to use their devices and their apps while in the car," said Derrick Kuzak, Ford group vice president of Global Product Development. "They can do it unsafely, or they can do it through safer voice-activated solutions such as Ford SYNC -- keeping their eyes on the road and their hands on the wheel."