Ford is using IFA in Berlin - Europe's answer to CES - to reboot its SYNC in-car infotainment for Europe. The US-based motor maker also announced plans to bring the teen-focused MyKey safety feature to Europe in 2012.
In one guise or another, SYNC has been available in the US since 2007. Ford says developing language packs for European markets explains the delay. But whatever the reason it's been a long time coming.
But that's OK, because it's nearly here and when it arrives it will give "every Ford owner features that enhance the driving experience so much, they can't imagine driving anything else." So says, Paul Mascarenas, Ford's Global Chief Technology officer.
For the record, SYNC arrives in Europe early next year on the latest Focus and will then roll out incrementally across the rest of the Ford European range.
So what exactly is SYNC and how does the Euro version differ from the existing US offering? Based on Microsoft's Windows CE operating system, Ford describes it as the "world's best voice-activated in-car system". As standard, it supports up to 10,000 voice commands. Crucially, no training is required to recognise voice commands. It's a turn-key, instant-on, out-of-the-box system.
The other key part of of the SYNC package is an 8-inch touchscreen. Ford's reckons the size of the display makes it a first for a C-segment car like the Focus. Predictably, seamless integration with smartphones – and Apple's iPhone in particular – is also in the mix.
In fact, SYNC doesn't have its own internet connection. Instead, it hooks into the 3G adapter of a connected smartphone. For now, online and connected features are limited. An in-car Wi-Fi hotspot is your lot. Features like Facebook, Twitter and Google search, already available from brands including MINI, BMW and Audi, are on the roadmap but not part of SYNC at launch.
Also missing is the iTunes-tagging HD radio feature from the US version of SYNC. That said, you do get a full Gracenote music database including album art. Right now, therefore, SYNC adds up to a swanky touchscreen interface, decent media playback and nav functionality along with a particularly slick voice-control platform.
As for the sordid matter of money, Ford is staying schtum. Pricing will be revealed early next year but the emphasis is on broad availability and affordability. So, here's hoping Ford caps SYNC at no more than £500.
More technically innovative, then, is Ford MyKey. The idea here is to improve safety for younger drivers. Ford says drivers aged under 25 in Europe are three times more likely to be involved in a fatal road accident.
MyKey offers part of the solution by giving parents the ability to tailor the car's performance and limit access to crucial safety settings. That includes limiting the car's top speed and removing access to the switchable aspects of the driver aids and stability control systems based on the profile associated with individual keys.
MyKey is already available in the US and Ford says it will be made standard on all compatible models.
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