Ford just announced voice recognition will be the Sync radio’s primary user interface going forward. Let that “sink” in for a minute.
The car maker has improved the ability of its Sync (now MyFord and MyFord Touch) radios to recognize 10,000 voice commands compared to the earlier 100. It can now switch modes by voice (eg. from Sirius to AM/FM), find channels by voice, do point-of-interest searches and input addresses by voice. It also lets users state commands in a more natural way. They can ask to “Call John Smith,” “Find ice cream” and “Add a phone” to pair a phone. (See video below) They can also adjust the temperature controls by voice.
“Ford is committed to making voice recognition the primary user interface inside of the car because it allows drivers to keep their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel,” said Jim Buczkowski, a Ford director.
Ford added more processing power to the Sync. Now, after the driver issues his first 3 commands, the system learns his voice traits and sets up a user profile to adapt to his dialect, tone, etc. This improves voice recognition by 50 percent, Ford says.
Also Sync now “speaks back” in a more “human” and less computerized voice.
Ford believes voice will overtake touch input in general. Smartphones are expected to be the main way we connect to the Internet by 2015 and so smartphones themselves will start using more voice recognition, said Ford, citing analysts.
Also, 60 percent of Sync owners use their voice controls while driving, said Ford. The market for speech recognition in vehicles will about triple from 2009 to 2014, from $64 to $208 million, say Ford citing Datamonitor research.
In terms of driver safety, a 100-car study by Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that the driver looking away from the road for more than a few seconds is a factor in nearly 80 percent of accidents.
The new MyFord Touch system with improved voice recognition launches this year with the 2011 Ford Edge.
Photo: 2011 Ford Edge via Car and Driver