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Ford vehicles equipped with Microsoft’s Sync may offer access to telematics services similar to some of those of General Motors’ OnStar, reports RCR News.

The added services will be delivered through the driver’s cellular telephone. The data are encoded by software provided by Airbiquity, a Seattle company that already provides so-called “in-band modem” technology to OnStar and other telematics providers.

Ford will also update existing Sync systems by sending customers a software upload on a thumb drive that can be plugged into the Sync system’s USB port.

Airbiquity will use its proprietary VIAaq technology to run telematics services such as concierge assistance or turn-by-turn navigation. The service can identify a customer by the computer chip number of a phone, making it possible to tailor information to a driver’s needs. Because drivers’ phones are not embedded in the cars, services such as anti-theft or stolen vehicle tracking will not be part of Sync.

It will also pull diagnostic data from the car’s computer during calls and send that information to Ford, which in turn will distribute it to dealers for customer service purposes. A vehicle health report will be among Sync’s future services.

ATX Group, of Dallas, a rival service provider to OnStar, also is an Airbiquity customer. So is Continental AG, which provides the Sync system’s “black box” electronics to Ford.

No prices were given in connection with the Airbiquity/Sync telematics announcement.

Ford’s SYNC system with Nuance speech features:

  • Voice-activated, hands-free calling: Drivers can simply press the “Push to Talk” button on the steering wheel, and then say the name of the person to call. SYNC will automatically connect with the names in the mobile phone’s contact list.
  • Audible text messages: With Nuance speech synthesis, SYNC will convert text messages from a compatible mobile phone to audio and read them out loud. The system is sophisticated enough to translate commonly used text messaging expressions such as “LOL”.
  • Voice-activated music: Drivers can browse hands-free the music collection on a digital media player or USB drive by genre, album, artist and song title using simple voice commands, such as “Play Genre Rock,” “Play Artist U2,” or “Play Playlist Acoustic.”
  • Instant voice recognition: The advanced Nuance speech recognition in SYNC lets a driver speak simple commands that are automatically understood by the system, without any training.
  • Multilingual intelligence: SYNC is fluent in English, French and Spanish.

SYNC is now available on many 2008 models including the Ford Edge, Focus, Fusion, Taurus, Taurus X, Explorer and Sport Trac; Mercury Milan, Montego and Mountaineer; and Lincoln MKX and MKZ. The technology is expected to be available on all Ford, Lincoln and Mercury vehicles in the near future.

Autoweek has an interesting feature story, Under the Hood with Big Brother that details the perils of black box systems in cars, GPS guidance systems like OnStar and roadway wireless systems like the Intelligent Transportation System.

Related DailyWireless stories include; Gadgets That Listen, Analog Cellular to Shut Down, Microsoft Vrs OnStar, 3-D Traffic/Weather Maps, Cellular Navigation/Tracking, Satellite Radio Growing in US and Traffic Info by Phone & Palm.

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