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February 24, 2009

Ford's "Sync" Voice-Activated Calling and MyKey™ Auto Parental Controls

To provide some background for my interest in auto technologies : My husband and I need to replace our 10 year old wagon with a new car. We are looking at the Ford Hybrids, other Hybrids and dreaming of buying an electric car. So this makes me even more interested to learn about the new auto technologies available to help us in our decision process.

SYNC:

While at CES, I had the chance to have a demo of the Ford and Microsoft partnership created "Sync" that provides voice-activated, hands-free calling. Here is a link over to the Ford website with more details :

"Sync is a voice-activated, hands-free, in-car communications and entertainment system that fully integrates your Bluetooth®-enabled mobile phone and digital music player".

It will be offered on Ford, Lincoln and Mercury cars , but can not be purchased after market:

"Sync will debut in fall 2007* on twelve 2008-model Ford, Lincoln and Mercury models: Edge, Explorer, Five Hundred, Focus, Freestyle, Fusion, Milan, MKX, MKZ, Montego, Mountaineer and Sport-Trac. Additional Sync-equipped vehicles will be rolled out as quickly as possible.".

The demo at CES was seamless, you get in the car with your cellphone - turn on the car - and Sync takes over all the functionality from your cellphone to provide a voice activated hand free experience. Functionality includes voice dialing from the phone's address book, navigation, weather and finding local businesses like restaurants all from a small screen located on the dashboard. To use Sync, the drive needs to have a cellphone in the car, that acts as the host to the technology. The IEEE Spectrum tech talk blog shared their opinion on some of the challenges, but I think this is a step in the right direction for integration of this type of functionality in cars instead of having to install separate gadgets or attach something like a hand sized GPS (that can be stolen) to a dashboard.

Here is the video demonstration of Ford Sync:

MyKey™ :

Watching the video is best way to understand how MyKey™ works.

Here are the details from the Ford Website on MyKey™ :

"a new technology that allows parents to limit the vehicle’s top speed and audio volume – next year as standard equipment on the 2010 Ford Focus and many other Ford, Lincoln and Mercury models.

MyKey, another affordable innovation from the company that introduced SYNC™, also encourages safety-belt usage, provides earlier low-fuel warnings and can be programmed to sound chimes at 45, 55 and 65 miles per hour".

I joined a conference call for the DigiKnows Episode #1 An Insider’s Look at Ford MyKey™ to learn more about that technology. Here is the video from the live UStream discussion:


The UStream live discussion covered questions like "Would kids want big brother watching"? The answer was that if the kids are given the privilege of driving - that they would be ok with having auto limits set. Other good questions were on monitoring/reports - and the response is that the designers thought it was to big brother-ish so that is not currently available. Knowing that my 10 year old has already figured out how to de-install programs and tried to "de-install" the internet filtering controls on our computer - I would like to see some type of monitoring available.  I know that teens will not be happy about the volume controls, but there is plenty of information about how listening to loud music for a period of time can lead to hearing loss. That may be an "uncool" message but it is a valid issue.

Here are some of the links for more information:

Links:

New Teen Safe-Driving Technology

Tackling Teen Driving Risks

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I had the pleasure of driving a Ford Flex for a week last month -- and as much as I loved the car (which is too big and too expensive for my budget and lifestyle), the SYNC system is what I hated giving up most! There's a bit of a learning curve involved, but once you're up and running, you wonder how you drove without it.

I'm pleased that Ford is getting good ratings on its vehicle reliability these days... and that the SYNC is available even on its entry-level Focus model... which means there might actually be one in my future.

I have an Escape Hybrid, I love the gas mileage and how smooth and quiet it is, my wife loves the heated seats and the GPS. Everybody I know who has Sync loves it. I recently got to drive a new Fusion Hybrid and I really like the new instrument cluster, and the way the new GPS will find the prices for gas stations on your route.

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