Ford Adds Languages to Its Sync System
Ford is expanding the reach of Ford SYNC globally with the European launch of its popular voice-controlled connectivity system, with the capability of now offering 19 languages.
The Ford Focus will be the first vehicle to launch with SYNC in Europe in 2012. With the language expansion, SYNC with MyFord Touch will be available in:
- U.S., U.K., and Australian English;
- European and Canadian French;
- U.S. and European Spanish;
- European and Brazilian Portuguese;
- Mandarin Chinese; and
- Taiwanese Mandarin (supported through Mandarin Chinese)
SYNC was originally launched in North America in 2007 with three languages. With the additional 16 vernaculars, Ford will offer voice recognition capability, powered by Nuance Communications, in more languages than any other automaker offering voice control.
The expansion brings the convenience of SYNC to a much larger audience of potential customers, said Ford President and CEO Alan Mulally, who kicked off the global launch of SYNC this week at the 2011 CeBIT technology show in Hanover, Germany.
"We are pleased to announce that SYNC will soon be available to customers around the world," Mulally said. "It is a smart and simple way to connect drivers with in-car technologies and their digital lives."
SYNC can recognize 10,000 voice commands in any one of the available 19 languages, and can cope with variances in accents, vocabulary, and local dialects. If a German customer, for example, is driving in Italy, the system can provide directions in German but will use the correct Italian pronunciation for street names.
Within each international market, a unique set of abbreviations for text messaging also has been identified. For example, "cvd," short for "Ci vediamo dopo," was added for SYNC to read aloud, which basically means "See you later" in Italian.
"We had to make sure the system would behave as people expect in different countries and different cultures," said Mark Porter, supervisor of SYNC product development. "That means we had to solicit local, native-speaking input for common abbreviations used in SMS messages as well as support different units of distance and date formats."
Song titles and artist names posed further challenges. A German owner, for instance, may have songs by artists of German, American, Spanish, and other nationalities on an MP3 player. Due to phonetic differences between the languages, the system must be able to recognize a name whether it's pronounced in German or deep southern American English.
"The in-car experience needs to be global in nature, supporting a variety of languages to ensure all commands, addresses, and song titles are recognized, whether you're from Germany, Portugal, or France. Localization should not equal limitations," said Arnd Weil, vice president of Nuance Automotive. "Working closely with Ford, we've customized the SYNC experience across multiple languages to ensure drivers in all regions experience the simplicity and convenience that in-car voice technology has to offer."
"Ford is committed to making voice recognition the primary user interface inside the car throughout the world, helping all drivers keep their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel," said Jim Buczkowski, a Henry Ford Technical Fellow and director of electrical and electronicssSystems for Ford Research and Advanced Engineering. "This expansion of SYNC language capabilities is a huge step forward in bringing voice technology to every market Ford serves."