Ford has unveiled the next iteration of its SYNC smart car platform. SYNC 4 boasts conversational speech recognition and cloud connectivity that will allow drivers to use voice commands for navigation, internet searches, entertainment, and other connected features.
The new virtual assistant reflects Ford’s evolving smart car ambitions. In 2017, the American car manufacturer opened smart car facilities in Michigan and Ontario in an effort to improve its connected capabilities. SYNC 4 will make its formal debut in Ford vehicles in 2020.
“SYNC has always featured the best of Ford innovation to help our customers stay connected to and manage their busy lives as they move about the world,” said Ford Chief Product Development and Purchasing Officer Hau Thai-Tang. “With this new fourth-generation technology, we’ve evolved SYNC into an intelligent, voice-activated, in-vehicle digital assistant.”
Other highlights of the SYNC 4 system include an improved in-car interface that allows for easy multitasking thanks to 12-inch and 15.5-inch screens, as well as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi tech to facilitate wireless pairings between the vehicle and mobile devices. The latter will allow drivers to make use of platforms like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, while the SYNC AppLink feature will do the same for apps like Waze and Alexa.
The platform will also learn user preferences and make suggestions based on prior behavior, and allows wireless charging for supported smartphones. Meanwhile, on-board processing will ensure consistent performance while driving through areas with poor cloud coverage.
SYNC 4 should help Ford keep pace with the smart car competition, placing it alongside companies like Mitsubishi that have worked to develop their own proprietary smart car technology. Other major automakers – including BMW and Mercedes – have integrated virtual assistants through partnerships with third party providers like Nuance Communications, which has since spun off its automotive division as a separate company called Cerence.