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Ford Revs Up Hands-free Technology

The Ford Motor Co. and Microsoft revs up auto hands-free technology by enhancing the electronic system of Sync. The latter allows Bluetooth connectivity, voice activation, and MP3 player hookups. It is also designed to be fully upgradeable. Said system will be exclusive to Ford for one year.

Enthusiasts are pleased to know the capable innovation from the joint venture of the two giants in different fields. They are looking forward to experiencing the promises brought along by the new technology. According to them, the Sync is a difficult concept to grasp but promising, nonetheless.

Giant video images of Bill Gates and Alan Mulally, the new Ford CEO, announced the system at the North American International Auto show in Detroit and the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in last month. Basically, Sync links Bluetooth-enabled mobile phones as well as kindred wireless and USB-based devices into the car’s audio system. The technology uses buttons on the steering wheel or by speaking out loud, the driver can make a phone call, listen to a text message read aloud or have Sync find and play songs whose title the driver has forgotten.

Gary Jablonski, manager of infotainment systems at Ford, demonstrated the system in Detroit, “What it really is is a computer in the car.” Besides linking to mobile phones and other devices through a wireless Bluetooth interface, the system also offers a USB 2.0 port for control and charging of digital devices, including iPods, Zunes and other MP3 players and storage devices like flash drives.

“The voice system requires no training,” Jablonski said, “and responds to French and Spanish as well as English. He demonstrated the system reading and displaying a text message from his Bluetooth phone.” Ford believes that the strongest charm of Sync is its ability to read or write text messages as well as offer complete access to the tracks of music players by artist, title and genre information. Jablonski noted the system’s upgradeability. “Cars last longer than electronics,” he said. One key virtue of Sync is that the system’s software can be updated and can evolve over time.

The automaker will be adding Sync to its innovative features and outstanding auto parts like Duratec engine, EBC brake pads, rotors, and suspension to power up its hopeful lineup. Ford will offer Sync on 12 2008 models including the Ford Focus, Fusion, Five Hundred, Edge, Freestyle, Explorer and Sport Trac; Mercury Milan, Montego and Mountaineer; and Lincoln MKX and MKZ. Ford will feature Sync in its full range by the 2009 model year.

“There is great interest in this sort of technology,” said Mike Marshall, director of automotive emerging technologies for the research firm J.D. Power and Associates.

About the Author: Anthony Fontanelle is a 35-year-old automotive buff who grew up in the Windy City. He does freelance work for an automotive magazine when he is not busy customizing cars in his shop.

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