Microsoft Adds Voice to Ford Cars

Drivers of Ford vehicles will soon be able to control mobile devices and have text messages read to them through their cars' audio systems, thanks to a new voice-activated communications, entertainment, and navigation system being installed in some models through a partnership announced yesterday with Microsoft.

The system, called Sync and based on Microsoft Auto technology, will integrate the car directly with mobile devices that people carry with them every day. Drivers will be able to voice dial their cell phones by pushing the "push to talk" button on the steering wheel and saying the name of the person they wish to call. The system automatically transfers the contact list from the mobile phone into its memory, and can show things like caller ID, caller log and battery and signal strength through the radio's display screen.

Drivers can also use voice commands to select songs by title, artist or genre on their MP3 players and send and receive text messages. The system will be able to read text messages out loud through the car's audio speakers and will come with about two dozen pre-programmed text message responses.

The system uses Bluetooth technology and can also be accessed through the vehicle's steering wheel or radio controls. It will be available on 2008 Ford's Focus, Fusion, Five Hundred, Edge, Freestyle, Explorer, and SportTrac; Mercury's Milan, Montego, and Mountaineer; and Lincoln's MKX and MKZ models later this year and will expand to the entire Ford line by 2009.

Microsoft's Auto technology has already been available on some European cars, including models from Alfa Romeo and Fiat.

"With Sync, you can travel with your Zune or iPod and access its features using the vehicle's controls, and the full capability of your Bluetooth cell phone will be just a voice command away," says Mark Fields, Ford's executive vice president.


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