DEARBORN -- Ford SYNC® reached another milestone earlier this month when the popular voice-controlled communications and infotainment system was installed on the 2-millionth Ford Motor Company vehicle. Among Ford customers who have SYNC on their vehicles – and use its voice command features – 87 percent are satisfied with how the system operates, and 88 percent would recommend the purchase of a vehicle with SYNC to others. As part of Ford's continuing effort to engage customers, SYNC Product Manager Julius Marchwicki was made available recently for a live chat on thefordstory.com. Below are excerpts from that exchange.
Q. How are you dealing with increasing policy concerns over distracted driving?
A. Distracted driving is a growing concern for Ford. Remember, Ford is the first auto manufacturer to support a ban on manual text messaging while driving. We believe the solution is using your voice to control your devices inside the car. With our product, you can use voice to make calls, access songs on your MP3 player, get directions and soon, control smartphone apps. We do a lot of research around our design and function of displays, and we lock out many features, such as typing in a street address, while you're driving.
Q. Is Ford planning to allow the average developer to write and sell apps for Ford vehicles that are run from SYNC or similar computing capabilities in the vehicle, like people can do now for iPhone, Android, and the like?
A. We're working under a trusted developer model right now, with companies like Pandora, Stitcher and OpenBeak. Down the road, we envision being able to open our software development kit to all developers. I'm not sure on the timing for all developers, but look for SYNC-enabled apps from the companies above to come very soon.
Q. I've read about applications being able to connect to SYNC, such as Pandora. What types of smartphones will be supported?
A. We're targeting Android, Blackberry and iPhone for now. Windows Mobile and Palm will probably come later.
Q. Can you talk a bit about what you see as the future of voice-activated navigation/communication?
A. I think we'll start to see a lot more "one-shot" destination entry, which is a feature of the map-based navigation function in MyFord Touch. In the vehicle, voice will be able to control everything, and with MyFord and SYNC, you can control your climate control system, entertainment functions, phone and navigation all with your voice.
Q. Where do Ford's competitors stand against the SYNC platform?
A. MyFord and SYNC is an incredible platform designed by some world-class engineers at Ford. It really has positioned us very well in delivering awesome features to our customers! Rest assured that we have our eyes on the competition and are working hard to stay ahead.