Ford Australia's Research and Development department and Engineering teams have been doing something a little unusual: teaching its new SYNC 3 communications and entertainment system to speak and understand Australian accents.
The reason? Five of the company's most popular models have arrived in showrooms fitted with the third-generation SYNC which is faster, more intuitive and easier to use than its predecessors, with enhanced response to driver commands.
This latest system, says Ford, has conversational voice recognition technology, a more smartphone-like touchscreen and better graphics, features which will help drivers better connect with and safely access their smartphone's features while driving.
Development work on the new unit was heavily user-based, Ford processing comments and suggestions from some 22,000 customers globally and blending them with insights gleaned from research clinics, market surveys and the information technology industry.
The result is a new touchscreen design which delivers an experience similar to that of a smartphone or tablet but can also be used handsfree.
It boasts quicker response to both touch and voice commands and reacts to smartphone-like gestures such as swiping and pinch-to-zoom.
The number of items on-screen has been reduced for simplicity and reduces the need to look at the display, meaning drivers spend more time looking at the road and keeping their hands on the steering wheel.
Bright background graphics and large buttons with high-contrast fonts cut screen washout during daylight hours, and in low light situations the display automatically switches to a dark background to help reduce eye fatigue and minimise reflections.
SYNC 3 has also been designed for ease of use in the driving situation with less on-screen complexity and priority control options.
The home screen three zone choices (Navigation, Audio and Phone) with tile-like icons. Phone contacts can be searched using finger swipe scrolling, and a ‘One Box Search' feature allows users to search points of interest or enter addresses in much the same way they use an internet search engine.
Voice recognition means drivers and passengers can simply ask for a particular song when a compatible USB device is plugged-in or ask for a radio station by saying its frequency number.
By pushing a button and saying 'I need a coffee', drivers can find the closest cafés, coffee shops and restaurants and simple voice commands can also guide them to petrol stations, car parks, railway stations, airports and hotels.
The best part of that is that drivers can use colloquialisms such as ‘Newcastle Airport' rather than using the official name.
Sync 3 is also Apple CarPlay (for iPhone 5 and later models), and Android phones can be used with Android Auto (for Android 5 and higher)
Other features include the ability to update the software via wifi so it can automatically download updates and owners can program a spare key to reduce the car's maximum speed, give an earlier low-fuel warning, limit the volume of the in-car entertainment and even disable it completely if the seatbelt is not fastened.
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