beijing, China — When in Rome, do as the Romans do, and Ford has enabled its global in-car connectivity system in China to speak as the Chinese speak. The award-winning Ford SYNC® system in the New Focus will be able to speak and understand Mandarin – a language spoken by more than 1.2 billion people.
SYNC’s hands-free technology allows customers to connect almost any mobile phone or digital media player to their Focus via Bluetooth® and USB connection respectively. Chinese drivers can then make calls or play their favourite music via a steering wheel-mounted control and Mandarin voice commands, all the time with eyes on the road and hands on the wheel.
The New Focus is the first Ford vehicle built in China to feature the SYNC connectivity platform, and is also the first Ford vehicle in the country to have voice recognition in two available languages – English and Mandarin. The all-new Ford EcoSport will follow suit when it goes to market.
Originally introduced in North America with three languages, Ford is working with voice technology partner and industry leader Nuance Communications to expand the reach of SYNC globally with an additional 16 languages, providing voice recognition capability in more languages than any other automaker offering voice control.
SYNC is now installed in more than 4 million Ford vehicles. With this popular technology launching across Europe and Asia this year, Ford projects an additional 9 million vehicles will be equipped with SYNC by 2015.
In China, where a recent survey showed that more than 60 percent of mid- to large-size car owners own a smart phone, SYNC offers a viable solution to those looking to be connected on the go.
“We’re excited that SYNC will be available in Mandarin to our new Focus customers,” said Dave Schoch, chairman and CEO, Ford Motor China. “We’re committed to bringing global technologies to China and to making them user-friendly. SYNC in Mandarin delivers value to the customer through smart and convenient features that help keep them connected to their digital lives in a safer, simpler and smarter way.”
SYNC goes local
SYNC can recognise up to 150 unique voice commands in either Mandarin or English and cope with variations in accents and vocabulary. This allows users to take fewer steps and utilise more conversational commands to control SYNC features, making it easier to access more content by voice.
Extensive research went into the development of the Mandarin voice recognition feature, with speech data recorded from about 2,000 people around China representing a broad spectrum of society and a variety of accents. They were asked to read paragraphs, give common greetings and recite numbers so that Nuance engineers can isolate the individual phoneme, or the basic unit of speech.
This is why SYNC will be able to understand the wide-ranging accents from Beijing, Hebei, Liaoning, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Shanghai, Anhui, Sichuan, Chonqing, Hubei, Guangdong, Fujian and Guangxi. So whether the customer is a Beijinger who adds the “er” sound to the end of words or a Southerner who tends to blur the distinction between consonant sounds like “sh” and “s”, SYNC will have no problems carrying out the driver’s wishes.
Nuance’s natural text-to-speech technology is also behind “Samantha”, the female voice of SYNC, providing drivers with a more natural, conversational experience with their Ford vehicle. All of these refinements are designed to encourage drivers to take advantage of the hands-free capabilities of SYNC and keep their focus on driving.
Powered by Microsoft, Ford’s open platform approach to mobile device connectivity has helped SYNC stand out in the industry for its ease of use, allowing for continuous improvement of the user experience. Unlike embedded connectivity systems, SYNC does not allow access to the user’s stored contact information unless his or her phone is connected, hence ensuring a high level of privacy.
Using Bluetooth technology, SYNC can wirelessly connect up to eight different mobile phones to the New Focus through a process called pairing. Once paired and permission is given, SYNC will automatically transfer all the names and numbers in the phone’s contact list to the in-vehicle system.
A microphone inside the cabin allows consumers to use their mobile phone hands-free while driving. Making a phone call is as simple as pushing a button and saying someone’s name. SYNC also enables New Focus customers to continue their mobile phone conversation as they get into the car – without the need to hang up – as the system will instantly connect to the Bluetooth®-enabled phone once the car is started.
By seamlessly integrating with the mobile phone, SYNC includes the same features offered on the phone, including caller ID, call waiting, conference calling, a caller log, contact list, a signal strength icon and a phone battery charge icon – all conveniently shown on the New Focus’ centrally-located display screen.
SYNC can recognize the user’s ringtone on supported phones and play it when a call comes in. If unique ring tones have been selected to identify specific callers, SYNC will automatically play those too.
When connected to a compatible phone, SYNC can even retrieve text messages and read them aloud, including popular abbreviations and emoticons such as LOL (laugh out loud) and :-D (smiley big smile). Using voice activation, the driver can also send a reply from a predetermined list of 15 responses while on the move.
Other than making and receiving calls, SYNC gives the driver full hands-free control over portable media players and USB storage devices. Users can browse their music collection by genre, album, artist, playlist or song title using voice commands. SYNC can even put together a playlist of the music the driver is in the mood for with the “Play similar” command or inform the driver of the song that is currently playing with the “What’s this?” command. The SYNC USB port also simultaneously charges the player as the music is being played.
In China, over 70 percent of smartphone owners have instant messaging, music and search applications, or apps, on their phone. When paired with a compatible phone, SYNC also supports Baidu Ting and QQ Music, so that the driver can listen to their favourites on these popular music apps.
Additionally, SYNC can wirelessly stream the user’s music collection on the mobile phone to the new Focus’ sound system via Bluetooth. All music played through SYNC is high-resolution digital quality.
Intuitive MyFord Touch® interface
First introduced in China on the Ford Edge two years ago, SYNC with MyFord Touch will also be available on the all-new Ford Kuga and the Ford Explorer.
The advanced driver connect technology comes with a simplified voice recognition command structure. Utilising a flattened syntax, drivers can perform more tasks using fewer words, thanks to the improved SYNC vocabulary that recognises more than 10,000 voice commands.
Consisting of an 8-inch colour touch screen in the centre stack and two 4.2-inch LCD screens in the instrument cluster, the rich and interactive interface allows the driver to easily access vehicle functions, settings and information through voice, the steering wheel controls or with a simple tap on the touch screen.
The touch screen display located in the centre stack has been designed with a four-corner layout that captures the activities most important to the driver: phone, navigation, climate and audio entertainment. Functions are where they are expected to be and are always visible on the screen. A single touch on the appropriate corner will bring up the desired function or, in many cases, voice command can be used to adjust the controls.
“We know people want to stay connected in their vehicles, so Ford is continuing to deliver that connectivity for them responsibly and safely,” said Rod Phillips, SYNC engineering manager, Ford Asia Pacific and Africa. “Whether it’s SYNC or SYNC with MyFord Touch, we aim to make the voice-activated technology as easy to use as possible so that drivers can keep their hands on the wheel and eyes on the road.”