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Ford introduces SYNC 3, next generation of its communications and entertainment system

Ford introduced SYNC 3, its reworked communications and entertainment system that is faster, more intuitive and easier to use with an improved user interface and enhanced response to driver commands than its predecessor. The next-generation system builds on the capability of SYNC technology already in more than 10 million SYNC-equipped vehicles on the road globally. SYNC 3 begins arriving on new vehicles next year.

Ford took a customer-centric approach in developing SYNC 3, drawing on 22,000 customer comments and suggestions, plus insights gleaned from research clinics, market surveys and tech industry benchmarking.

Mark Boyadjis, senior analyst, automotive technology at IHS, observed that while it carries with it some new features over its often-criticized predecessor (SYNC with MyFord Touch), SYNC 3 is not going to become a new benchmark for flashy wow-factors.

This might not win over an Audi owner, but then again, Ford is most interested in taking share from Toyota, Honda, and Chevrolet. Those buyers are less impressed with glitzy name-brand chipsets and find more value in something they can understand the minute they take the keys from dealer.

… It is clear that this time around, Ford has put in the time and listened to enough customers to properly design, test, debug, and finalize this infotainment platform before it hits the market. According to a couple product managers, Ford is aiming to have a 60% penetration for SYNC 3 among new car sales in North America by the time the rollout plan is complete. This plan is ambitious, but possible because Ford did not reinvent the wheel with SYNC 3.

—Mark Boyadjis

Ford jettisoned the previous “four corners” design. Now, core functions such as audio, climate, phone, and navigation are represented by functional icons along the bottom of the screen, disappearing on certain screens, such as map view or rear camera view. Ford also added an apps tab and a settings tab to round out the six large, high-contrast icons in the bar at the bottom of the screen.

Although SYNC 3 is optimized for hands-free use, an all-new capacitive touch screen delivers an experience similar to a smartphone or tablet. Quicker response to touch as well as voice commands and smartphone-like gestures including pinch-to-zoom and swipe are central to SYNC 3, along with crisp, modern graphics. For example, phone contacts are searchable via a simple swipe of the finger to scroll through the alphabet.

A bright background and large buttons with high-contrast fonts for daytime use help reduce screen washout in the sun. At night, the display automatically switches to a dark background to help reduce eye fatigue and minimize reflections on the windows.

We considered all the modern smartphones and mobile operating systems and created something familiar but unique. Simplicity has value. Reducing the number of things on-screen also makes control easier and is designed to limit the number of times a driver has to glance at the screen.

—Parrish Hanna, Ford global director of Human Machine Interface

The home screen features three zone choices: Navigation, Audio and Phone. Tile-like icons dominate the screen, with a quick access function tray along the bottom making for a more straight-forward user experience.

With “One Box Search,” SYNC 3 users can look up points of interest or enter addresses in much the same way they use an Internet search engine. Click to enlarge.

The next-generation system minimizes the number of steps needed to carry out a voice command. With SYNC 3, simply saying “play ” prompts the system to play the desired song, artist, playlist or album; there is no need to identify the desired category. To switch back to a radio station, the user just says the name of the SiriusXM station or terrestrial radio station number.

Voice search results are enhanced by a better understanding of how consumers refer to businesses and points of interest. Drivers don’t have to know an exact name. They can search for “Detroit Airport” rather than using the official name “Detroit Metropolitan Airport.” With addresses, they can say, “Eleven Twenty-Five Main Street” instead of “One One Two Five Main Street.”

When connected to an Apple iPhone, SYNC 3 offers seamless integration of Siri Eyes-Free control. Drivers can seek Siri’s help by holding down SYNC’s “Push to Talk” steering wheel button—much as they would hold down the button on an iPhone to initiate a Siri session.

Ford was first to bring voice control to in-vehicle apps with AppLink, and the experience is further improved with SYNC 3. AppLink allows customers to connect their smartphone to their vehicle and control their compatible apps using voice commands or buttons on the vehicle display screen. AppLink now automatically discovers smartphone apps including Spotify, Pandora, Stitcher, NPR One, SiriusXM Radio and iHeartRadio Auto, and displays their unique graphics and branding. Music and news apps are automatically displayed along with other media sources, just like AM/FM or SiriusXM.

AppLink now automatically discovers smartphone apps including Spotify, Pandora, Stitcher, and displays their unique graphics and branding. Click to enlarge.

SYNC 3 also features the new ability to update the software via Wi-Fi. Once a vehicle is set up with credentials for a home Wi-Fi network accessible in a customer’s driveway or garage, for example, it can automatically download updates.

SYNC 3, like earlier generations of the technology, provides subscription-free emergency service 911 Assist.

The customer’s Bluetooth-connected phone is used to dial 911 in the event of a significant accident, alerting first-responders with the vehicle’s location. With SYNC 3, the car relays additional information, including if airbags were deployed, the type of crash (front, side, rear or rollover) and the number of safety belts detected in use, in order to help emergency call takers dispatch the appropriate resources to the scene.


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