It wasn’t too long ago that smartphone connectivity in cars just meant a way to have hands-free phone conversations and play your favourite tunes.
The smartphone now controls many in-car infotainment applications including navigation, music streaming, and third-party driver assistance services such as weather and traffic alerts.
This is the basis for Ford’s latest version of its SYNC infotainment system, the SYNC3 that incorporates Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as Ford's existing AppLink, for greater smartphone integration.
SYNC3 comes with a new smartphone-like touchscreen with easier-to-understand graphical interface and faster performance.
Meanwhile, AppLink now automatically discovers smartphone apps including Spotify, Pandora, Glympse and AccuWeather, and displays their icons for easier selection; though in most cases you’ll be able to access them via voice command.
SYNC3 also has conversational voice activation calibrated to understand Aussie accents which requires fewer steps to issue a command via Siri Eyes-Free or with the previous voice control system.
It also better understands how we refer to places, such as businesses and points of interest, by not using exact or official names that we probably don’t even know. For example you can now ask for directions to “Sydney Airport” instead of “Sir Charles Kingsford Smith International Airport.”
Another interesting feature is how you can program SYNC3 to ensure others who drive the car, particularly less experienced drivers, do so safely. Owners can program a spare key to reduce the maximum speed of the vehicle, give an earlier low-fuel warning, limit the volume of the in-car entertainment or even disable it completely if the seatbelt is not fastened.
SYNC3 still provides subscription-free Emergency Assist. Any phone synced to the system is used to dial 000 in the event of a significant accident, alerting emergency services with the vehicle’s location. The system also relays additional information, including if SRS airbags have been 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.
SYNC3 software can be updated wirelessly and once you establish a connection with your home Wi-Fi it will automatically download updates while sitting in your garage or driveway.
All Ford needs to do now is to educate customers who aren’t as savvy with their smartphones about all the available apps and how to use them. With the auto connectivity and simple voice activation, this shouldn’t be too difficult.
SYNC3 will be rolled out from next month on 2017 Ford Focus, Mondeo, Mustang, Everest and Ranger models.